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Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny: Health care costs don’t have to be a secret



For the Monitor
Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Hampshire spends more on health care than most states. Until these costs decrease, we will continue to see rising health insurance premiums and higher deductibles.

High health care costs make it harder for patients to get the care they need and for businesses to provide affordable health insurance for their employees.

It’s important that we work together to bring health care costs down.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department has a free resource to help consumers and employers make more informed decisions about how to spend their health care dollars. NHHealthCost.org shows cost estimates by insurance company for more than 100 medical and dental procedures including MRIs, lab tests, office visits and more. And, the estimates are shown by provider so consumers can see how much a procedure might cost depending on where they receive care. The site also provides national quality data on the 26 New Hampshire hospitals and a Guide to Health Insurance.

Studies have found that higher cost care generally does not mean higher quality care. With this in mind, we recently added a new feature that shows cost and quality comparisons side-by-side. This makes it easy for site visitors to look at the value of their care, which is the important intersection of cost and quality.

High deductible plans are now common and can make it more difficult to afford care. If faced with an unexpected medical bill of $500, 45 percent of insured Americans and 62 percent of uninsured Americans say they would have difficulty paying, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Respondents said they would need to put the bill on a credit card to pay off over time, borrow money to pay the bill or could not afford to pay the bill at all.

NH HealthCost is an important tool for those with high deductibles and without insurance to manage their medical costs. For some procedures, our cost estimates show patients could save up to $10,000 by driving just a half an hour.

Patients and medical providers have told us that they want to have conversations about health care prices, but they do not know where to start. Even physicians often do not know the cost of the procedures they recommend. NHHealthCost.org is mobile friendly. If you are sitting in an exam room and your doctor recommends a certain test or procedure, you can look at the cost estimates with your doctor. It is a tool to help you talk with your doctor about the cost of care, whether you can afford it, and if not, whether another option might be helpful.

The department offers these resources for the residents of New Hampshire so that they may make more informed decisions about where to go for care – and save hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on where they go.

Also, we hope as more consumers use this type of information, health care providers will respond with higher quality, more affordable care. By continuing to choose lower cost providers, we can all help drive down the costs of health care.

(Roger Sevigny is commissioner of the New Hampshire Insurance Department.)