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The California Department of Insurance announced an agreement with the University of California, San Francisco to provide meaningful information to consumers about healthcare prices and quality. The health care pricing and quality transparency project is funded by a federal Cycle III Rate Review Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that was awarded to the California Department of Insurance as part of an initiative under the Affordable Care Act.

“Consumers today have limited or no access to information about the price and quality of healthcare services before they receive care. Purchasing healthcare is like shopping in a department store with a bag over your head-you have no idea what the medical costs are before you get the bill. Increased access to medical pricing and quality information is vital to help consumers make more informed decisions about their care, because the best quality care is not necessarily the most expensive care,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Transparency in medical pricing should improve competition and result in lower medical costs, as patients will vote with their feet if medical provider prices exceed those of competitors.”

Under the agreement with the California Department of Insurance, researchers at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF will collect and analyze data to develop price and quality information for a number of common medical procedures and episodes of care. The information will be made available online. In the initial stage of the project, UCSF’s analysis will provide average prices for geographic regions within the state using a number of data sources, including private commercial health insurance and public health programs such as Medicare.

“There are increasing calls for transparency about price and quality in California and nationally”, said Dr. Adams Dudley, Associate Director for Research at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, at UCSF. “We look forward to making more information available to California patients and their families, so they can make more informed decisions about where to get health care.”

Pursuant to the agreement with Department of Insurance, UCSF will also convene a collaborative stakeholder process with a diverse range of stakeholders, to obtain ongoing feedback regarding the project, build partnerships with interested parties, and ensure the healthcare pricing and quality project provides useful information to a number of important audiences, including consumers, businesses, health insurers and healthcare providers.

Commissioner Jones continued, “As the first price and quality transparency initiative undertaken by the State of California, we look forward to collaborating with all interested stakeholders and public agencies to make healthcare pricing and quality information available in a sustained way for all Californians.”