Minnesota Web site offers price comparison shopping on healthcare

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A Web site has allowed people in Minnesota for the last five years  the opportunity to compare quality among health providers. Now they can compare cost as well.

The Web site was launched in 2004 by the nonprofit Minnesota Community Measurement and has provided data on quality and performance. Now, the Web site has been expanded to include the average price paid by health plans for the 100 most common health services.

Minnesota Community Measurement plans on adding prices to the Web site for more services on a regular basis and will track price changes over time. According to Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office, the site will be particularly useful to Minnesotans with consumer-directed health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements, as well as those who pay for their health services in cash.

"Providing quality and cost information gives consumers a powerful tool for healthcare purchasing decisions," Pawlenty said. "This reform is part of our larger effort to make Minnesota's healthcare system even more market-driven, patient-centered and quality-focused. Comparing cost is a fact of life in almost every other aspect of life, but it's a fundamental change in healthcare. By increasing transparency we hope to hold down costs and improve quality."