Web site brings health care costs in perspective

By The West Virginia Record | Aug 16, 2007



CHARLESTON -- Last year I had knee replacement surgery and, thanks to the expertise and care from our West Virginia physicians and health care professionals, I've had a tremendous recovery. I am more active and feeling better than I did before.

Perhaps surprisingly, the hardest part of my post-op recovery was not the healing period and the daily physical therapy. The most difficult part was deciphering the bundle of health care provider bills and statements that trickled in during the months following my surgery last summer. Not only was I not sure of the reason for each of the separate bills, I simply couldn't determine the final cost of my surgery because there were so many different parties involved. It also seemed ridiculous that it took months for me to receive some of the statements.

I've said many times that this nation –- and the generations living within it today -– are the greatest consumers of all times. We demand good service and want to know what it will cost.

Coming from a retail business background, I know how important it is to provide your customers good service and the right information so they can make wise choices. When we visit a doctor or a pharmacy, we are health care consumers. We should be informed health care consumers, so I asked the state Health Care Authority to work on a project to help meet that goal.

Earlier this summer, I joined with the West Virginia Health Care Authority to officially introduce CompareCareWV.gov, a free Web site that provides information to help West Virginians begin an informed conversation with their doctors and hospitals about charges before they have elective surgery or diagnostic tests.

The data on the site comes from information supplied by each hospital to the Health Care Authority, so it is timely, reliable and presented without bias.

The West Virginia Hospital Association has been a great partner in this project, and hospital representatives from across the state have provided information and feedback to improve the site's quality. This puts West Virginia at the forefront of presenting medical procedure charges to the public. The site is easy to use and lets visitors compare by procedure or by hospital.

While some of the larger insurance carriers provide hospital charge and quality-of-care information to their subscribers, most often this information is limited to those carriers' enrollees. CompareCareWV.gov is free and available to all West Virginians. No special registration is required, so visitors to the site can compare costs easily at home, with dignity in privacy.

The last couple of weeks, I've begun visiting locations across the state to highlight how easy it is to use this Web site to gather the right information for your next medical procedure, from angioplasty to x-rays. This site provides West Virginians another tool to help them become educated consumers when it comes to making decisions about their health care.

I encourage you to visit the site today.

Manchin in West Virginia's governor.

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