Tool reveals wide gap in costs for PCI, imaging

BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) unveiled a database that allows consumers to compare treatment costs at hospitals. The tool shows wide variation in payments for cardiac procedures and imaging.

The insurer said the online tool lends transparency to the amount paid to hospitals and allows consumers to comparison shop by region. “This is important because many health plans require you to pay at least some of the cost of your care. So making sure you get the best quality and best price helps keep you and your wallet healthy,” wrote BCBSNC.

The costs reflect average prices from claims data and include physician fees, facility fees, supplies and copayments. The prices are estimates and can vary by individual.

Based on the site, cardiac angioplasty with a drug-eluting stent costs $18,652 (Blue Value) to $24,249 (Blue Options, Blue Advantage) at WakeMed in Raleigh and $28,740 to $35,392 in neighboring Rex Hospital. The same procedure ranges from $32,741 to $38,380 at three hospitals listed for the Charlotte region and costs $40,691 at the one hospital named for Greensboro.

CT angiography of the chest costs between $527 and $2,147 in the Raleigh region and between $566 and $2,030 in the Fayetteville area.

The North Carolina Blues has offered an online tool to customers since 2012. The new site is publicly available and has been expanded to provide details on costs for more than 1,200 procedures. BCBSNC customers also have access to a portal that includes quality data and specialized cost estimates.

The online tool is available here.