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Health care pricing service comes to Indy

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Doctors and hospitals are notoriously reluctant to disclose prices, or are incapable of it, before patients agree to receive care. But a new service launched in Indianapolis is one more effort to try to pull back the curtain on health care prices.

Chicago-based OkCopay Inc. posts prices offered by health care providers, many of which have agreed to give cash-paying patients a price roughly equivalent to those charged to insured customers. The site also includes pricing information from health care providers that do not give cash-paying patients an additional break.

The free website is supported by advertising from health care providers who pay to run two-week promotional offers on OkCopay.com.

OKCopay launched its service in Indianapolis on Dec. 3, after starting up in Chicago in March and in Milwaukee in July. About 100 people from Indianapolis are accessing the site each day.

The company was founded by Bloomington native Touré McCluskey, who previously was part of the pricing-strategy team at Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co.
 
“We think there’s a need for it in every marketplace in the country,” McCluskey said. “The people who need it the most are people who are working, but they don’t have employer-sponsored coverage [and] they make slightly too much to get Medicaid. They’re truly in no man’s land. They’re part-time workers, free-lancers, bartenders, waitresses and entrepreneurs.”

And McCluskey thinks their ranks are growing, as high-deductible health insurance plans become more common and some programs, such as the Medicaid program in Illinois, no longer cover as many dental or vision services.

“I do see it growing just because of the general movement toward consumerism, as well as because health insurance won’t cover everything,” McCluskey said.

OkCopay is not the first service to offer price information to Indianapolis-area patients. Healthcare Blue Book, which is owned by Tennessee-based CareOperative LLC, provides general price information for free and more specific price information through employer health plans, such as the one operated by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Also, large health insurers like Indianapolis-based Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Minnesota-based UnitedHealthcare provide price information to their members based on their contracts with health care providers.

And California-based Castlight Health announced in October that it will provide its price transparency technology to Indiana University and its 17,000 employees.

OkCopay’s target, however, is the uninsured and the under-insured. And it is looking to work primarily with health care providers that are independent of large hospital systems.

It figures that if more doctors and patients can link up and conduct cash transactions outside the third-party health insurance system, patients can pay less and doctors can actually make more.

“For the doctors and the dentists, they don’t mind having their prices out there,” McCluskey said. “Because all things being equal, if you come in with your cash payment, they earn more, because they don’t have to deal with receivables and all that.”

McCluskey formed OkCopay in 2011. He and another Bloomington native, Greg Danielson, are the company’s only full-time employees. They also have a team of five part-timers.

McCluskey won an $80,000 grant this year from New York-based Echoing Green, which has helped fund the company. He hopes to raise up to $500,000 next year to expand OkCopay to 10 to 15 cities by the end of 2013 and as many as 50 by the end of 2014.

 

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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