New Massachusetts law requires insurers to provide prices to members

Under a first-of-its-kind law implemented in Massachusetts in October, insurers must give consumers prices for certain services within two working days so consumers can comparison shop for medical procedures. "This is a really revolutionary law that hasn't gotten a lot of attention yet,'' Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, told the Boston Globe. "It's a cultural shift," she said. However, insurers operating in Massachusetts have been hesitant to promote the cost transparency initiative and requests for prices have been slow. Since October, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has received 74 inquiries though half were for dental services the law doesn't cover. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has received 120 calls, and Tufts Health Plan has fielded 40, the Globe noted. During the next few months, the insurers are ramping up efforts to comply with the cost transparency program; for example, Harvard Pilgrim will launch a website allowing members to determine prices for 1,000 procedures. Meanwhile, Tufts and Blue Cross both are developing similar systems. And the state Consumer Affairs Office will ensure the companies comply with the law by using "secret shoppers'' to test estimates, meeting regularly with insurers and investigating consumer complaints, Anthony added. Article