Online health care cost tool headed for consumers

Consumers will soon have online access to what’s being described as the most comprehensive information on the price and quality of health care services, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, an independent nonprofit.

Health insurance giants Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare will provide health care cost information to the institute. The information portal is expected to be available in early 2015.

The cost data will be supplemented with quality and other information to provide consumers a transparent and comprehensive destination to make more informed decisions about health care, according to the institute.

The online tool will give consumers, employers and regulatory agencies access to data, including actual costs, that only insurers now have, said David Newman, executive director of HCCI.

“Voluntarily making this information available will be of immeasurable value to consumers and other health system participants as they seek to manage the cost and quality of care,” Newman said.

Health care costs have been rising more than three times as fast as wages. Official estimates project that U.S. health spending will reach $4.7 trillion by the end of the decade, an 80 percent increase from 2010. The spiraling costs underline the need for better understanding of health care services’ costs when it comes to making choices about purchasing care.

The Health Care Cost Institute is a nonprofit that provides researchers with data from more than 5 billion claims and $1 trillion in health care activity over the past decade. The information comes from Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare, and includes some data from the federal government.