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News Link • Healthcare Industry

Exposing the Cost of Health Care

• www.technologyreview.com

It's easy to compare prices on cameras, vacations, and homes. But in the United States, patients fly blind when paying for health care. People typically don't find out how much any given medical procedure costs until well after they receive treatment, be it a blood draw or major surgery.

This lack of transparency has contributed to huge disparities in the cost of procedures. According to Castlight Health, a startup based in San Francisco, a colonoscopy costs anywhere from $563 to $3,967 within a single zip code. EKGs can range from $27 to $143, while the price for a set of three spinal x-rays varies from as little as $38 to as high as $162.

When someone else is picking up the tab, mystery pricing is not much of a problem. But these days, even the 59.5 million Americans who get health benefits through large self-insured employers are increasingly expected to pay a percentage of the costs for their medical care.

Castlight aims to do as its name suggests: cast light on the actual costs of medical care, so that people can make informed decisions. The company, founded in 2008 by entrepreneurs Giovanni Colella and Todd Park, now chief innovation officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers computer-based tools that let people comparison shop for health care in much the same way they would for airline tickets on Travelocity or for cars on Cars.com.
 

Travelocity for medicine: Castlight's data-driven tool sheds light on the costs of medical care, information that can be difficult for consumers to find on their own.

Credit: Castlight Health
 

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