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Many unaware of new rules on health care costs

Jul. 5, 2014 | News Article

The Boston Globe
By Felice J. Freyer

Most state residents who partcipated in a recent survey said they would like to know what their health care costs, but many of those polled by the consulting and research firm Mass Insight were not aware of new requirements that insurers and providers reveal price information for medical procedures in advance.

Price knowledge is one component of the state’s 2012 law intended to control health care costs. Since last Oct. 1 , insurance companies have been required to answer consumers’ questions about the cost of services within two days. Beginning this Oct. 1, they must provide the information instantaneously. Physicians and hospitals will have to provide cost estimates starting Jan. 1.

“It’s been largely an insider conversation up until now,” said William H. Guenther, CEO and founder of Mass Insight. “The good news is, consumers want more information. . . . So you’ve got a willing public. We just have to make it more transparent and easier for them to gain access.”

The survey found that 87 percent of respondents considered it important to have clear information about the cost of medical care ahead of time. But 82 percent said they did not have information allowing them to compare cost and quality before getting a medical procedure.

Three-quarters did not know about the price-transparency requirements in the 2012 law.

More than 90 percent agreed that quality of care is “more important than anything else — even price.” But 55 percent also said that cost was a factor when choosing where to go for care.

Barbara Anthony, the state undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, said she was heartened by the results. “It’s exciting to me that people want this,” she said.

Anthony said many don’t know about the requirements in the new law because the biggest change is yet to come — when the insurers launch their price-comparison websites on Oct. 1. Currently patients can call to request the information, but few do.

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