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Highmark opens the door to health care pricing | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Shopping for medical care is like shopping for nothing else: the charge is almost never known until the patient gets the bill.

Now, health insurer Highmark Health is cracking a door into the arcane world of health care pricing by trying to guide members to the lowest cost, highest quality providers in its network. The carrot: choosing the best doctors and medical facilities will put cash in the patient’s pocket in the form of a rebate.

“Members are increasingly becoming aware of cost variability,” Highmark Senior Vice President Lori Schoonmaker said. “We have big plans for this product.”

Bigger co-pays and deductibles for health insurance and the sharp rise in the number of high-deductible plans in recent years are forcing consumers to be smarter about where they get an MRI or blood test. The hitch is there’s virtually no comparative pricing information available, no Kelley Blue Book for medicine, and charges can vary wildly, even among providers within the same network.

Employer groups, including the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, have long pressed for pricing transparency in medical care, saying it’s critical to holding down costs and improving quality.

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Highmark opens the door to health care pricing | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.