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Starting today, health insurance companies in Massachusetts are providing online cost estimator tools for their members to compare the price and out-of-pocket costs of certain healthcare services, procedures, or hospital admissions. This will be particularly helpful for consumers with high deductible plans or those who have to pay co-insurance, which is a percentage of the total cost. These cost estimators are required under the Massachusetts Healthcare Cost Containment and Quality Improvement law which was passed in 2012. These cost estimators can help consumers to shop around for healthcare services and determine the best and most cost effective option for themselves and their families.

Consumers may not know about these tools yet, but should be aware that they are available to members and may require consumers to sign into their insurance company website. With the roll-out of the new web tools, consumers are granted better accessibility and transparency of their health care costs.

The Division of Insurance has compiled a list of contacts and websites for each Massachusetts health insurance company. You can find that list here: http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/docs/doi/web-transparency-chart.pdf. The chart aggregates the 16 health insurance companies’ estimate tools, making it easy for consumers to access their insurer’s cost estimator to be able to consider price as one of the factors in their healthcare decision-making. In addition to the real-time information available on the online cost estimators, the health insurance companies can also provide costs  at a toll-free number. Many of the companies have plans to expand their search features for their online tools, and one insurer will even create a mobile application. Through this requirement and other healthcare initiatives, the Commonwealth is among those leading the country in cost transparency to empower consumers with the information they need to make informed decision regarding their healthcare.

Follow the Office of Consumer Affairs @Mass_Consumer for updates and additional information on healthcare transparency (#hctransperancy) and empowering healthcare consumers (#empowerHC).

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