Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Expands Cost Disclosure Tool to Northcentral Wisconsin

Thursday, October 22, 2009 General News
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MILWAUKEE, Oct. 21 Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin (Anthem) announced today the expansion of its industry-leading transparency initiative to northcentral Wisconsin. Now, all members in Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Vilas and Wood counties will be able to access Anthem Care Comparison, an online tool that provides information about the costs of 35 specific medical procedures performed at local area hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and free-standing radiology facilities. Members can also find cost and quality information on more than 160 inpatient procedures using the tool.

"No other transparency tool in the Wisconsin market today provides the depth of information on the total costs of procedures as Anthem Care Comparison," said Larry Schreiber, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin. "Through this tool, our members have access to the costs associated with all aspects of a specific medical procedure - not just the cost of the procedure itself, but also the costs of the entire spectrum of care, from lab tests to recovery room charges. These medical care cost estimates will help our members better understand the overall costs they are likely to incur before a medical service is provided."

In addition, the cost information is facility specific, so members can compare the differences in cost among hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and/or free standing imaging centers, and get information on how frequently facilities perform each procedure, which can assist the member in assessing the care they seek.

With the expansion of the online resource, individual and group members in northcentral Wisconsin join more than 24 million members nationwide, including those already using the tool in the Milwaukee and Green Bay areas.

"Ultimately, we want Anthem Care Comparison to create well-informed consumers of health care," said Dr. Michael Jaeger, Anthem's managing medical director. "Creating well-informed consumers, employers, physicians and hospital providers is an important element of transparency, and an essential step in transforming the consumers' role in their own health care."

Anthem Care Comparison is a primary feature of the company's 360 Degree HealthŪ program, one of the most robust benefits programs in the industry to comprehensively address preventive care, health improvement and care coordination. It provides health information collected from physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to members through a single point of contact. It integrates all care management programs and tools into a centralized, consumer-friendly resource that assists members in navigating the health care system, using their health benefits and providing information to help them access comprehensive and appropriate care. 360 Degree Health helps members access a wide range of services including online wellness and lifestyle programs, discounts on health-related products and alternative medicine therapies, and 24-hour access to health care professionals who can provide health information.

Anthem's parent company is taking the Care Comparison tool to Blue Plan members nationwide. In July, plans were announced to provide access to the cost comparison tool to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Additionally, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) selected Care Comparison as its platform for a national transparency solution for all Blue Plans.

BCBSA will use the treatment categories and cost methodology of Care Comparison as the core component for its consumer-facing online cost estimation tool. This arrangement enables BCBSA, Anthem's parent company and its affiliated health plans, and other Blue plans to continue to work with physicians and facilities to provide members with meaningful health care cost data. In turn, members will be able to make more informed choices about their health and health care spending. Through these partnerships, members in any of the participating health plans will have access to the information from all the states involved with the program.

About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin ("BCBSWi") underwrites or administers the PPO and indemnity policies; Compcare Health Services Insurance Corporation ("Compcare") underwrites or administers the HMO policies; and Compcare and BCBSWi collectively underwrite or administer the POS policies. Independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Ū ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin

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