Aetna gives patients pricing in advance

In a move to to educate its patients and tame medical spending, Aetna said it will disclose prices in advance for doctors' visits, according to an August 19 story in the Ventura County (California) Star.

The new test program, which began August 18, will help patients calculate their out-of-pocket medical expenses before they are incurred, Aetna said. As many as 1 million Americans are enrolled in health plans with deductibles of more than $1,000 for an individual and $2,100 for a family.

“As there's more transparency, then there will be an impact on cost and on quality,” Robin Downey, Aetna’s head of product development, told the Star. Patients with deductibles may use Aetna’s program to compare prices for an office visit and choose a cheaper one, Downey said.

WellPoint and UnitedHealth Group say they have taken steps toward price transparency as well.

The program now targets Aetna's 200,000 customers in southwestern Ohio, including Cincinnati, Dayton, and Springfield as well as neighboring parts of Indiana and Kentucky. Patients there will be able to check the cost of the most common procedures done by 5,000 general practitioners and specialists.

The database includes prices for 600 procedures.

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