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Highmark's Online Tool Helps Consumers Compare Costs for Elective Surgeries
Date:8/12/2009

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to help individuals make more informed decisions about their health care, Highmark Inc. has introduced a new Web tool that allows its members to view online the costs of 17 elective surgical procedures at different medical facilities before scheduling their operation.

"The Care Comparison Costs tool provides members with additional information to help them research hospital and other medical facility options for care, understand the health costs associated with particular conditions and treatments and choose the facility that is best for them and their family," said Dr. Carey Vinson, vice president of quality and medical performance management.

When members access the "Care Comparison Costs" section of the member Web site, they can comparison shop for a hospital or another medical facility for the care they need. They can obtain average cost ranges for procedures, including all fees from admission to discharge, as well as anesthesia and pathology.

The tool does not provide actual estimates of out-of-pocket costs, but the available cost-range information allows members with coinsurance or deductibles to have a better idea of their expenses. In addition, it only includes information on certain elective (non-emergency) surgeries such as laparoscopic gallbladder removal, cataract surgery and knee replacement surgery.

"When we make costs transparent to the consumer, it allows them to shop and compare health care costs in the same way they do with retail goods and services," said Vinson. "This tool should result in more informed decisions and better savings in their health care spending."

The cost comparison tool was developed in collaboration with four other Blue Plans - WellPoint, Inc., Premera Blue Cross in Washington state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Currently, cost information from fiscal year 2008 is available for network hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in many different markets nationwide, including Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Washington. The cost data will be updated twice annually.

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.


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SOURCE Highmark Inc.
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