Data wonks with mighty computers are overjoyed. Ordinary consumers, not so much.
That’s the reaction about three weeks into a data dump of enormous proportions. Health insurers are posting their negotiated rates for just about every type of medical service they cover across all providers.
But so much data is flowing in from insurers — tens of thousands of colossal digital files from a single insurer is not unusual — that it could still be weeks before data firms put it into usable forms for its intended targets: employers, researchers, and even patients.
“There is data out there; it’s just not accessible to mere mortals,” said Sabrina Corlette, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
Insurers are complying with federal rules aimed at price transparency that took effect July 1, she and others said. Realistically, though, consumer use of the data may have to wait until private firms synthesize it — or additional federal requirements start to kick in next year aimed at making it easier for consumers to use the price information to shop for scheduled medical care.
So why post prices? The theory is that making public this array of prices, which are likely to vary widely for the same care, will help moderate future costs through competition or improved price negotiations, although none of that is a guarantee.
Hospitals last year cam …