Aetna among founders of coalition that aims to improve transparency for consumers

An industry coalition comprised of representatives from Aetna, AARP, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, Novo Nordisk and the National Consumers League announced a new venture this week to improve price transparency throughout the health markets, according to an announcement from the group.

The campaign, known as Clear Choices, consists of members from various sides of the political spectrum--as well as consumers, providers and insurers--who agree on one thing, according to the statement: "Consumers should have access to affordable health care--and that transparency will enhance choice and competition to make healthcare more affordable."

One of the campaign's top priorities is to push for more transparency on the federal and state-based health insurance exchanges. Specifically, Clear Choices want to require exchanges to include information regarding online prescription drug formularies, detailed provider directories and clearer summaries of benefits, according to the announcement.

Some states already have tools in place to enhance transparency. Massachusetts, for instance, became the first state last year to require insurers to provide real-time prices for all covered medical services--the state leads the trend toward a more consumer-oriented industry.

Additionally, the campaign realizes that consumers need and want price information prior to undergoing a procedure. This, perhaps, is the coalition's most far-fetched goal, reported Kaiser Health News. Providing consumers with up-front information is difficult because the process itself includes so many different components, such as facility-use fees, physician charges, deductibles and co-payments.

While the campaign outlined clear goals, some believe achieving those goals may be difficult.

"It's harder for the insurer to tell you what you will end up paying until you have precise information on what services you will be using--which patients (and, for that matter, doctors) do not always know in advance," Mark Pauly, a professor of healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania, told KHN.

However, those involved back the coalition's objective. "Aetna fully supports the efforts of Clear Choices to help promote clarity for consumers and empower them to become more engaged in their healthcare," Aetna's Chris Riedl said in the announcement.

For more:
- here's the announcement
- check out the KHN story