Fierce Q&A: UnitedHealthcare launches price tool for retail shoppers


Dina Overland

If I could summarize the theme of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2012 held next week in Salt Lake City, I could do it with one word--change.

Upon learning that UnitedHealthcare launched a new price comparison tool called mHealthcare Cost Estimator, I was intrigued to learn more, particularly because of the personal retail shopping experience the insurer claimed it provided. The tool uses UnitedHealth's own actual contracted rates with providers in 47 markets to provide "highly accurate" prices. FierceHealthPayer turned to Nick Martin, vice president of innovation, research and development at UnitedHealth Group.

FierceHealthPayer: UnitedHealthcare describes the cost estimator as a tool that brings a retail shopping experience to healthcare. How were you able to achieve that?
Nick Martin: With myHealthcare Cost Estimator, people can access prices for more than 100 treatments and procedures, and compare, side-by-side, both the quality and cost information for 240,000 different physicians and hospitals.

In addition, the online tool offers a simple, intuitive user interface that makes understanding health treatment options as easy as comparison-shopping online for airline tickets, electronic devices or other consumer goods.

FHP: What drove UnitedHealthcare to establish the cost estimator?
UnitedHealthcare already has been offering such a tool for more than five years, and myHealthcare Cost Estimator is the latest enhancement that offers consumers maximum accuracy in pricing information.

UnitedHealthcare is committed to providing necessary tools and information to help our plan participants make better healthcare decisions for themselves and their loved ones. myHealthcare Cost Estimator is another step in that direction, using technology to advance the transparency and simplicity of healthcare and make it easier for customers to understand the cost of specific services and procedures.

FHP: What does UnitedHealthcare hope to gain from its members who use the new tool?
UnitedHealthcare is committed to helping people improve their health and wellness, which in turn can help improve the health of the larger healthcare system. And one key way of accomplishing that is providing better information to help people make better decisions.