Hospitals, insurers refine cost estimator tools to avoid sticker shock

George Hahn of Philadelphia had two echocardiograms conducted at the same hospital a year apart, using the same insurance—the only difference was one cost $3,000 more than the other. Hahn’s plight is similar to many other Americans—and hospitals are acting, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Hahn’s insurer, Independence Blue Cross, told the Inquirer it plans to update its online cost estimator tool, so the insured can determine the cost of a test or procedure before it is performed. Also, prices will be based on specific plans, rather than estimates. Main Line Health, where Hahn received the ECGs, is the process of developing an online tool that provides customized quotes to patients before procedures. But will these measures be enough?

“It remains all too difficult for most people, when they’re having to pay for care to find out how much it’s going to cost,” said Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine of the University of Michigan. “Health systems have to do a lot more to help people.”

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