Hospitals in Kansas are now starting to post costs for medical services online, responding to a new federal requirement that took effect January 1. A major insurer believes that is a positive development.

“United HealthCare feels that additional transparency helps consumers understand variation in costs, which is really a first step as they think about where they want to go for care and choosing who they go to,” said Katherine Bisek, vice president of strategic initiatives for UnitedHealthcare. “Health care costs can vary significantly across the country and within a given city.”

This is the reason why insurers like United HealthCare negotiate prices with hospitals in advance of procedures.

“United HealthCare works with each health system to work through fair negotiations with typical three-year terms,” said Bisek. “We also work with hospitals to find opportunities to reduce costs. Examples are asking for prior authorization for process.”

Prior authorization is about making sure a patient gets just the care they need based on their individual situation.

“It takes into consideration what their state of health is and what they’re looking to achieve in terms of treatment of care and outcomes that we’re looking at,” said Bisek.

A public website,, enables all Americans to access market average prices for nearly 800 common medical services, providing a starting point for people looking to research health care costs in their local area.

Image courtesy: United HealthCare