Insurers Encouraging Members to Ask Physicians About Cost of Treatments

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The Wall Street Journal has examined how more health insurers have begun to encourage members to ask physicians questions about the cost of treatments. According to the Journal, a number of insurers have begun “arming patients with the tools and techniques that the insurers have honed to help them press the point on clinical options and costs.”

For example, health insurers such as Blue Shield of California, UniCare Life & Health Insurance, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and PacifiCare have hired Resolution Health to develop letters for members that recommend they discuss potentially less-expensive treatments with physicians.

In addition, some health insurers have begun to make recommendations in financial statements to members and provide “questions to ask your doctor” on their Web sites. Cigna in the next several months plans to launch a program under which the company will inform members of standard prices for different physician visits, as well as which services they should receive and the amount of time physicians should spend with them.

Health insurers maintain that such practices could reduce their costs and help members find less-expensive treatments, as well as help physicians track how patient health plans work. “We want to empower the member, and we want to educate the member,” Constance Williams, an associate medical director for UniCare, said (Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal, 1/31).

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