MINNETONKA, Minn. (May 15, 2013) UnitedHealthcare has made available to nearly all of its employer-sponsored plan participants nationwide myHealthcare Cost Estimator, an integrated online and mobile service that brings a retail shopping experience to health care that enables people to comparison shop for health care services based on quality and cost.
The tool free to employers and plan participants at myuhc.com and through the Health4Me app helps consumers find quality care while being able to estimate the cost of more than 450 common services with enhanced accuracy. Estimates are personalized to reflect an individual's own health plan benefits, including their real-time account balances when applicable. myHealthcare Cost Estimator provides plan participants the ability to compare quality and cost information for more than 540,000 physicians and 4,500 hospitals.
There are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors' offices nationwide. For example, the total cost for a colonoscopy at hospitals in the Phoenix area can be between $1,540 and $6,020. For a knee MRI in Seattle, the cost ranges from $460 to $2,470 at area health care facilities.
The online and mobile service is more precise than cost estimation tools that may rely only on historical claims data or provide estimates based on geographic average. myHealthcare Cost Estimator draws on the company's actual contracted rates with physicians, hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, giving consumers more accurate pricing information.
If consumers have questions about the estimates, they can call the number on the back of their health benefits ID card, or use the click-to-call feature on their Health4me mobile app, to speak with a customer care professional. The tool is also integrated with additional information and resources, including nurse support.
Consumers and employers are looking for help to understand what it will cost to go to the doctor and have the confidence in making the best use of their benefits. In a recent survey of myHealthcare Cost Estimator users, 67 percent of the people surveyed said the tool gave them confidence to make better cost choices, and 84 percent said they would use it again. Employers have embraced the tool as an important capability to engage employees and more effectively manage health care costs. Some employers are taking steps to encourage employees to use the tool, featuring it through webinars, health fairs, mailing campaigns and other marketing efforts.
"Empowering our employees with tools and information that improves their health is key to Nationwide Insurance, and the myHealthcare Cost Estimator is a perfect example of that," said Kathleen Herath, associate vice president of health and productivity at Nationwide Insurance. "We are taking specific and strategic steps to help our workforce use myHealthcare Cost Estimator, which encourages them to make more informed decisions about the quality and cost of health care services. As a result, we are helping to create happier, healthier and more productive employees."
Since myHealthcare Cost Estimator launched last year, thousands of consumers have used the tool to compare the quality and cost of various treatments and services.
"Expanding the availability of myHealthcare Cost Estimator meets a longstanding consumer need for thorough but simple online comparison shopping for health care by putting personalized, relevant and accurate information right at people's fingertips," said Yasmine Winkler, chief product, marketing and innovation officer, UnitedHealthcare. "myHealthcare Cost Estimator enables people to make better care decisions, by better understanding their treatment options, comparing services and anticipating future costs."
myHealthcare Cost Estimator provides pricing and quality information regarding about 170 "episodes of care," which creates a comprehensive view of what consumers should expect throughout their course of treatment for any health issue, from the time they first visit the doctor to the test or procedure, and all the way through to physical therapy or any necessary follow-up care. Quality and cost information is directly connected to hospitals and physicians that participate in UnitedHealthcare's care provider network, and alternate treatment options are provided so consumers can have an informed conversation with their physician.
Collaboration with care providers is critically important when building cost estimators and other consumer support tools to ensure they enhance the overall patient experience and accurately portray expected costs and treatment options rather than putting unnecessary focus on just costs.
UnitedHealthcare plan participants can access the tool online at www.myuhc.com. It is also integrated into Health4Me, UnitedHealthcare's mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphones that helps people with employer-sponsored benefits plans access important health care information on their mobile devices.
A Simple Yet Comprehensive Shopping Experience
myHealthcare Cost Estimator was created based on years of consumer, employer and care provider feedback to ensure a simple, intuitive experience. Key features include:
- Cost estimates for more than 165 geographic areas covering more than 170 "episodes of care" that can include 450 individual services, such as surgeries, lab tests, radiology tests and office visits.
- Cost estimates that are tailored to a plan participant's specific benefits plan design that identify what will be owed out-of-pocket, costs that will be paid by their employer, and real-time account balances available in an eligible health care account to pay toward the expenses.
- Ability to assemble cost estimates by matching physicians with the specific facilities where they practice.
- Presentation of common alternate treatment options to educate patients on their choices.
- Educational information about how their benefits work and how costs are determined.
The tool provides estimates based on available fee schedules and actual contracted rates with care providers; if that information is not available, estimates are based on historical claims with the care provider. myHealthcare Cost Estimator builds on the success of UnitedHealthcare's Treatment Cost Estimator, which was created six years ago to help consumers comparison shop for health services and understand how costs differ from doctor to doctor.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 780,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,900 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 40 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.