Today We

shine a light on what health care actually costs.


Managing medical costs starts with knowing what they are. We not only support the concept of cost transparency, we’re pioneers in making it a reality.

An early innovator in cost transparency, Blue Cross NC launched a groundbreaking cost comparison tool in 2012 to enable members to compare cost and quality for common procedures before they make important care decisions. More people are taking charge of their own health care experience and comparing health care prices is part of that movement. In fact, 55 percent of U.S. consumers can now find out the cost of a medical procedure before receiving the service—that’s up 11 percent in just one year.1

Just as consumers can shop for cars or smart phones by doing research before making a purchase, we empower patients to be better informed health care consumers. While we know a patient wouldn’t do online research during an emergency, as much as 43 percent of health care services are actually “shoppable.”2 When patients see that costs for the same surgery in the same area can vary as much as $17,000,3 they realize they can choose more affordable options. In health care, higher prices don’t necessarily mean higher quality care.4

A step further: It pays to shop around

Beyond delivering cost information, Blue Cross NC recently introduced a new way to reward members who choose high-quality, cost-effective health care services. Another first for North Carolina, the SmartShopper™ program, powered by Vitals, not only compares costs for common medical services, it also delivers cash—up to $500 per procedure—to members who choose reward-eligible care sites. Innovative programs like this will do even more to transform the way patients approach health care choices.

We see it as a double effect. Giving more shopping power to consumers can also motivate health care providers to offer a better price for their own services.

  1. 2017 Alegeus Healthcare Consumerism Index.” Alegeus. (Dec. 2017). Accessed July 2018.
  2. Spending on Shoppable Health Care Services.” Health Care Cost Institute. (March 2016). Accessed August 2018.
  3. Blue Cross NC Treatment Cost Estimator Tool. Comparing Blue Options, Blue Advantage total knee replacement costs in the Charlotte region. Accessed August 2018.
  4. Cooper, Zack. “Why Is Healthcare So Expensive?” Yale Insights. (February 12, 2016). Accessed May 2016.
  5. Based on Blue Cross NC Treatment Cost Estimator: Knee Replacements in the Charlotte region on the Blue Options, Blue Advantage plans. Accessed August 2018.