Priority Health Puts Health Care Price Info Online

GRAND RAPIDS — Most people would never make a major purchase without first researching the price. Yet, every day, individuals agree to non-emergency, health care services without knowing the impact on their bank account.

As with other major purchases, health care prices can vary widely, even when quality is the same. For instance, the cost of a colonoscopy in West Michigan can range from $1,284 to $4,572, depending on where you go. That’s why Priority Health created the “Cost Estimator” to give its members instant access to cost information, based on their individual health plan, for more than 300 health care procedures, including X-rays, MRIs, lab tests and surgeries.

“Giving our members useful tools and resources is fundamental to our goal of improving the health and lives of our members,” said Joan Budden, chief marketing officer for Priority Health. “Cost estimator gives members data and information to make the best decision possible for themselves or their family.”

Priority Health members can access Cost Estimator through www.priorityhealth.com or through the Priority Health mobile app. Once a member opens Cost Estimator, they select the procedure and their preferred care location and doctor. The Cost Estimator will then calculate cost information based on the member’s specific health plan and provide quality of care information on the provider selected. And if the price is determined to be high, members are presented with more affordable options using different facility and provider combinations.

The Cost Estimator is the second tool Priority Health has launched to share the true costs of health care with its members. Early in 2014, Priority Health launched Healthcare Bluebook, a tool that provides statewide comparisons of pricing and quality information to help consumers make more informed decisions when receiving care.

Individuals are being asked to cover more and more costs out of their own pocket. Many employers are opting to pass along the rising costs of health care by offering workers high-deductible health plans. According to an annual census by America’s Health Insurance plans, enrollment in high-deductible health plans rose to nearly 17.4 million in January 2014, up from 15.5 million in January 2013. Michigan outpaces other states in the number of individuals with high deductible health plans.

“As an industry, we need to continue to find new ways to engage individuals in their health,” Budden said. “Engaging members in the prevention and treatment of their health is the only way we are going to be able to truly create better health outcomes, improve patient care and, in the long term, drive lower health care costs.”

Priority Health offers a broad portfolio of health benefit options for employer groups and individuals, including Medicare and Medicaid plans. Its network of health care providers features 95 percent of practicing physicians available in Michigan and more than 900,000 nationwide.

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