Cigna to publicize medical service costs

Starting in January, consumers covered by Cigna health insurance will be able ti find out not only how much those two aspirin cost, but how much their doctors are charging them for their services.

Connecticut-based Cigna will be expanding its online data to include prices charged for services by hospitals, surgical and radiological facilities and physicians, in addition to the pricing currently available for prescription drugs, the company announced yesterday.

Cigna plans in January to start listing specific price ranges for 15 common hospital admissions, such as childbirth, angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery. Hospitals are currently ranked with one to three stars based on their prices for these admissions, but no specific dollar values are given.

Cigna also already provides quality and efficiency rankings.

In February, the company said it will pilot a rollout for prices for procedures at surgical and radiological facilities, such as endoscopies, arthroscopic joint procedures and diagnostic exams, in limited markets before expanding the service to New Hampshire and other states nationwide later in the second quarter 2006.

Starting in March, Cigna also will provide the statewide average price range for types of doctor’s office visits, but the data will not be physician-specific.

Company officials say the new information will allow consumers to know what level of service they should expect and what the costs are for the services, although patients may have to ask their physicians what their specific charges are to make comparisons. — CINDY KIBBE

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