Addressing transparency issues surrounding the healthcare industry, California state officials launched a website where consumers can research and compare prices for different medical procedures and even see quality scores for healthcare providers.

A collaboration tool among the state's Department of Insurance, University of California Davis and San Francisco, and Consumer Reports, California Healthcare Compare reveals the range of prices paid by health insurance companies for over 100 medical procedures as well as average costs based on geographical locations.

For example, tools available on the site provide information on higher and lower-performing hospitals and medical groups for childbirth, hip and knee replacement, back pain, colon cancer screening and diabetes care. They also show what people pay for more than 100 medical issues: from appendicitis to urinary tract infections.

"The time for greater transparency for healthcare costs is long overdue. Consumers have been in the dark about the price of medical services from one medical provider and facility to the next and certainly haven't had cost information paired with quality measures," said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, introducing the site during a San Francisco news conference last Sept. 21.

Jones added it is the first step in accessing more detailed prices from doctors, hospitals and insurers to enable patients facing high deductibles to shop around, negotiate, and get the best deals.

However, the website offers not only prices but also doctor-group quality ratings as sourced from government and independent group data.

"By fostering an atmosphere of openness and 'freeing the data' for consumers, we are making it much easier for consumers to compare their options. The ultimate goal is for consumers to have all the price and quality information they need," stated Consumer Reports.

Doris Peter, director of Consumer Reports' Health Ratings Center, added that the site's format was vetted by thousands of consumers prior to launch.

"It's trying to integrate the quality and cost information together... in a way that's helpful but not misleading," she said.

At the moment, the only available data on California Health Compare is at the regional level. According to the site, access to provider-specific payment information requires cooperation from the insurers and health care providers, who have been "unwilling to share their data."

The website was built through a $3.9 million federal grant made available via the Affordable Care Act. Learn more about it on the CA Health Compare's official website.

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