Assessing and Improving Cost Estimator Tools for Consumers
Advancing Primary Care
June 23, 2015
Now more than ever, there is a demand for cost transparency in health care. One mechanism to provide greater transparency is cost estimator tools used by health plans and commonly found on their websites.
Cost estimator tools allow consumers to have a sense of what their health care costs will be; however, available price information is not necessarily meaningful price information. These cost estimator tools vary among health plans in terms of their usefulness, comprehensiveness, accuracy, and customer-friendliness. Better cost estimator tools are needed to improve the consumer experience; enable consumers to better predict their health care costs; and encourage providers to engage in a competitive market. In 2015, NYSHealth awarded Consumers Union a grant to assess current cost estimator tools and recommend how they can be improved.
Under this grant, Consumers Union conducted expert reviews of cost estimators, as well as other public tools not affiliated with a health plan. Reviews examined the usefulness, consumer experience, scope, and accuracy of each tool. Additionally, a consumer experience review was conducted to look for patterns, problems, and challenges that consumers face using cost estimator tools. Results from the reviews were published in Consumer Reports, reaching 425,000 print and online subscribers in New York. Along with the findings of the assessments and consumer feedback, the report included comparative tool ratings, consumer advice, and recommendations to improve the cost estimator tools. Consumers Union also undertook a communications campaign to share findings with consumers, consumer organizations, the media, and other prominent stakeholders.
Read the report in Consumer Reports on health cost estimator tools, both nationally and New York State-specific, as well as an issue brief that provides more analysis of the cost estimator tools available to New Yorkers.