State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21), ranking member of the Insurance Committee, joined the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS), Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and other state lawmakers on Tuesday, Oct. 8, to unveil the Healthscore CT cost estimator, a consumer tool that allows users to compare the cost of medical care at Connecticut hospitals and provider networks.

The interactive website allows consumers and providers to search, sort, and filter by location, health measure,provider, network quality rating, and cost.

“Reducing the costs of health care and improving access to quality care needs to be a top priority in our state,” said Kelly. “The launch of HealthscoreCT.com’s cost estimator tool is an important step in the process to give consumers more information they need to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families.”

Kelly said he was “very happy to see this important bipartisan effort to increase price transparency move forward. In 2015, Sen. Martin M. Looney and Sen. Len Fasano co-authored legislation that sought to create a website to allow consumers to compare health care costs among providers.”

To see HealthscoreCT.com launch its cost estimator tool is a great accomplishment, according to Kelly, adding that he appaluds all those who have worked on this project for many years, including the entire team at the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy.

“The cost estimator can help us improve health and healthcare delivery,” said OHS Executive Director Vicki Veltri. “It’s a valuable resource for policymakers who track healthcare cost drivers and an important tool for consumers who are seeking more transparency in health costs.”

Veltri said this data, and the foundational APCD data, also have applications for public health and research that will help the state achieve its healthcare goals of cost containment and improved access. High cost does not necessarily mean good quality, said Veltri, adding that the cost estimator is the first step toward getting more information into the hands of consumers.

“This new online cost estimator tool will help patients and their families better understand how the cost of services being offered by their healthcare providers compare with others and will empower them to make well-informed choices about their own medical care,” said Bysiewicz. “Consumers can now access the information they need to save money and find the health networks with the highest quality ratings for their treatment needs. This is critical to the bottom line for every family and business in Connecticut.”

The Healthscore CT cost estimator pulls information from the state’s All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) and allows users to compare the cost of specific procedures offered by medical providers throughout the state. There must be five or more claims per service for that provider to be included in the survey.

The cost data range reflects the payments made by insurers for particular inpatient and outpatient procedures — claims for which all Connecticut-regulated insurers and pharmacy benefit managers are required to submit to the APCD. The site currently contains nearly 50 inpatient and outpatient services; new measures will be added regularly. At the launch, the cost estimator included nearly 234,500 people and 263,700 medical procedures.

“The APCD is a rich source of data that we should be examining to better understand our health system and its challenges, especially the costs that put care out of reach for so many residents,” said Connecticut Health Information Technology Officer Allan Hackney. “Today is a good start; a good foundation for the future applications that will help us bring down costs and improve care. I want to thank our partners who helped us create a database and a website that will benefit consumers and providers.”

The cost estimator launch follows the quality scorecard, which was unveiled in August. The scorecard, supported by a $45 million grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, uses national standard measures endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) and consumer experience measures derived from Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) consumer surveys.

It employs a five-star system to rate healthcare organizations on health measures determined by the State Innovation Model Quality Council - an advisory body made up of consumer advocates, providers, community organizations, state agencies, and payers. The scorecard uses information from nearly 465,000 patients of 19 accountable care organizations throughout Connecticut and can help providers and payers improve their facilities and health insurance plans.

“Insurance plans have different deductibles and co-pays,” said Veltri, “so we urge people to use the Healthscore CT cost estimator as a starting point and speak with their insurer about any deductibles or co-pays associated with their specific health policy before undergoing treatment.”