The Procedure Price Lookup tool is one of many moves by CMS to increase the transparency of healthcare costs. Photo by Andrei Rahalski/Shutterstock
Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, on Tuesday unveiled a new online tool that gives consumers the power to compare Medicare payouts for various hospital procedures.
The Procedure Price Lookup tool allows users to see the national averages for what Medicare pays to hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers, along with the national average copayment amounts that beneficiaries without Medicare supplemental insurance would pay the provider.
"We must do something about rising cost, and a key pillar is to empower patients with the information they need to drive cost and quality by making our healthcare system evolve to one that competes for patients," Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, wrote in a blog post.
The launch of the lookup tool comes almost two years after the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act to help sort out the difference in what Medicare patients and CMS pay for the same service.
The rollout of the law is a part of CMS' eMedicare initiative, designed to bring more overall price transparency to consumers who in need of prescription drugs and medical services.
Included in the initiative are optimized drug pricing and spending dashboards, and a cost estimator for drugs and services not covered by Medicare.
In the same spirit of transparency, President Trump also signed two bills into law in October removing "gag orders" that kept pharmacists from giving tips to customers on how to purchase cheaper prescription drugs. Later that month he floated a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to disclose drug costs in television ads.
"While the work we have done to empower patients by increasing the transparency of the Medicare program is unprecedented, we are just getting started as we work to increase price transparency throughout the healthcare system," Verma said.