Lifting the Veil on Pricing for Health Care

It’s long been hard for health-care consumers to learn how much doctor visits or hospital stays will cost them. That’s now beginning to change, as a growing array of Web sites try to lift the veil on pricing.

The online resources come from insurers, government agencies, Internet companies and medical-care providers. The sites aren’t perfect: Unlike online retailers that sell products such as televisions, the health sites can’t typically give exact prices for medical procedures and services. Still, consumers can get a rough idea of typical costs in their area, and that can help them choose doctors and hospitals, budget for medical costs and sort out disputed bills.

John Rogers, a funeral-home owner in Frankfort, Ky., says he checked pricing on HealthcareBlueBook.com in June after a hospital told him it would charge a facility fee of about $4,200 for his wife’s outpatient gastrointestinal surgery. The Web site suggested that a reasonable price would be closer to $1,300, based on what insurers paid facilities for such procedures in his region.

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