Who is behind Guroo.com?
Guroo is a newly launched website that allows consumers to research how much a medical procedure or test actually costs in their geographical area. But whose brainchild is this online tool? That would the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). This entity “is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with a public-interest mission. Its overarching goal is to provide complete, accurate, unbiased information about health care utilization and costs to better understand the US health care system. Through research and access to a large health insurance claims database, HCCI seeks to offer answers to critical questions about health care spending and utilization for the entire privately insured health population.”
The HCCI’s latest step toward achieving that goal is Guroo, a consumer-oriented database that provides cost information for common conditions and medical services at the local, state, and national levels. Its figures are based on claims from many insurance firms for over 40 million insured individuals, but the website is open to everybody; it doesn’t matter who their insurance company is or if they are not insured at all. “For many consumers, shopping for health care doesn’t feel like an option - it’s simply too complicated. Guroo intends to change this by showing consumers they can shop for health care and elect where they spend their health care dollars,” Executive Director of HCCI David Newman said in a press release. “With rising prices and more consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans, consumers are eager to get the best value out of every dollar they spend on health care.”
HCCI hopes that Guroo will give users access to information that they can use to pick a doctor or seek a treatment, as well as educate them on common medical conditions and procedures, including questions that patients can ask their doctors so as to improve the understanding of their alternatives. The organization feels this is the kind of help that consumers are sorely lacking, especially in a time when healthcare cost growth continues to exceed salary growth – with no sign of that stopping in the near future. In addition to vital information, the website is designed with a user-friendly interface, employing care bundles and steps as opposed to the complicated procedure codes Fair Health Consumer uses. To the knowledge of its creators, this is one of, if not the largest healthcare consumer database.
Robert Browning wrote that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Guroo’s reach is, for the time being at least, limited, though. As Jay Hancock wrote in an article published by Kaiser Health News, “it won’t reflect costs for particular hospitals or doctors, although officials say that’s coming for some. And it doesn’t have much to say initially about the quality of care.” healthcare specialist at Consumers Union Lynn Quincy added that “the average user may not have a good sense of what they’re looking at and what they’re supposed to do with the resulting price.” Nevertheless, consumer advocates commend the initiative. “This has the potential to be a game-changer,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health insurance analyst Katherine Hempstead said. “It’s good for uninsured people. It’s good for people with high deductibles. It’s good for any person that’s kind of wondering: If I go to see the doctor for such-and-such, what might happen next?”
Moreover, HCCI promises there is more to come, such as more procedures, more insurers - Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana and UnitedHealthcare are involved in the initiative, with Assurant set to join soon –, partnerships with states engaged in all payer claims databases, and allowing members of the aforementioned insurers monitor spending on a sister website and checking whether switching caregivers could reduce their out-of-pocket costs. Although the ‘transparency’ movement in medical billing is still in the nascent stages, Guroo is certainly a step in the right direction. And as far as medical supplies go, there is always Discount Medical Supplies.