Web Site Gives Consumers a New Way to Compare Health Care Costs

First published in Landings, March, 2017

There is a new online resource to compare the costs and quality of health care procedures in Maine. Launched last fall, CompareMaine.org provides consumers with price information on hundreds of medical procedures and tests, including bloodwork, doctor visits, hip replacements, and much more. The site is supported by a federal grant and the efforts of the Maine Health Data Organization.

CompareMaine shows the average cost of common health care procedures at different facilities in Maine. These are the costs that the medical provider will charge your insurance company. The cost estimates on CompareMaine are median payments (meaning that half of the facilities surveyed charge more and half charge less) and are meant to serve as a reference point for comparison.

 ⇒ Here’s what you can find on the CompareMaine site:

Costs: The amount the facility or provider on average charges an insurer for a medical procedure. This amount can vary by thousands of dollars.

Complications: Each facility is rated on its ability to prevent serious complications.

Infections: Each facility is rated on how well it keeps its patients safe from infections.

Insurers: The site lets you search by insurance company to see whether a procedure is covered and what’s the typical charge by procedure.

Patient Satisfaction: Each facility is rated by patients on overall quality of care.

Procedures: Hundreds of specific procedures are listed currently; more are being added as the database is updated.

Factors in your health insurance plan, such as your co-pay or deductible amounts, will make a difference in the actual out-of-pocket costs a consumer will have. The dollar amounts on CompareMaine are the amount your insurance is charged. For instance, an MRI scan of your brain would cost on average $1,656 in Maine. But at Mid-Coast Hospital the average cost billed to your insurance is $2,691 versus $1,235 at Maine Mobile MRI Associates. To find out your actual payment, please contact your insurance company.

For most people, it’s second nature to shop around and compare costs of big ticket items, like washing machines and televisions. Now Maine residents can do the same comparison shopping when it comes to their health care procedures. Maine is among only four states in the country that provide a means for consumers to get price clarity on medical costs.

The CompareMaine web site is a product of the Maine Health Data Organization (MHDO). MHDO is a state agency that collects healthcare data from health insurance companies and hospitals. CompareMaine shows information on over 230 healthcare procedures from more than 270 facilities organized into 155 facility groups.