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Blue Cross Puts New Online Shopping Tool in Hands of Consumers
Date:3/16/2009

Care Comparison reveals price, value of common elective medical procedures

EAGAN, Minn., March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumers can now easily find accurate health care cost and quality information through Care Comparison(R), a new online tool introduced today by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Care Comparison allows nearly two million Blue Cross members in Minnesota to evaluate total treatment costs as well as quality, safety and accessibility information for dozens of common elective procedures at facilities throughout the country. Blue Cross members can search online for the most costly and common procedures -- such as joint replacements, tonsillectomies or MRIs -- and make informed health care decisions for themselves and family members. Five Blue Cross companies have collaborated to make this tool available to 22 million members throughout the country.

Until now it has been difficult to find useful health care cost and quality information in one tool because it's very difficult to gather and display this type of health care information. "Increasingly consumers are being called on to spend more of their own out-of-pocket money for health care, so knowing what they are getting for their dollar is critical to their decision making," said Richard Neuner, chief marketing officer, Blue Cross. "We want members to be able to make more informed choices about their health and health care spending. Members increasingly have more of their own money at stake and therefore we have provided an easy way to make health care comparisons so they get their money's worth."

Care Comparison takes unique "packaged" events of care and provides data on all related services and not just the cost of the procedure itself. For example, a package of care for surgery could include charges for the surgeon's services, lab work performed, anesthesia and use of the facility. All Care Comparison results are based on actual Blue Cross member claims. "Because these costs are based on recent claims data, members can be confident in estimating their share of the out-of-pocket costs before having the procedure done," stated Neuner.

The tool provides a range of costs for more than 30 medical procedures performed at hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and radiological facilities in 17 states. In addition to providing costs, Care Compare offers nationwide quality information for an additional 150 procedures. In addition to providing costs, Care Comparison offers nationwide quality information for an additional 150 procedures.

Care Comparison allows consumers to compare up to 10 facilities at a time -- on either cost or quality -- for inpatient procedures. And for outpatient procedures, the tool lists up to 100 different facilities.

The tool provides customized reports using factors that a consumer indicates are important to them, such as patient satisfaction, length of stay, complication rates, number of patients treated, and safety and mortality rates. Consumers can then determine what facility best meets their needs for elective, non-emergency procedures. For example, if someone plans on having knee replacement surgery, Care Comparison would be able to find a price range for the entire procedure as well as estimate their out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, Care Comparison could determine which facility has completed the most surgeries, specify the number of patients with complications and list how previous patients ranked the facility.

"Care Comparison addresses a consumer need to make health care spending decisions based not on cost alone, but on overall value -- cost, quality, safety, convenience and the entire experience," added Neuner. "This is a big step forward in health care transparency. Because the information will be so broadly available, we think providers will ultimately be encouraged to strive for the best quality outcomes. Care Comparison allows Blue Cross members to shop for the right care on their terms -- here in Minnesota and throughout the country."

Blue Cross members can use Care Comparison at members.bluecrossmn.com.

For a demonstration of the tool, please contact jean_m_miller@bluecrossmn.com.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.8 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to bluecrossmn.com to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Each BlueCross and Blue Shield plan is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
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