Ever wonder how much a knee replacement surgery costs? What about a tonsillectomy?

It may not be as exciting as buying a new pair of shoes online, but customers of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield can go online to find out just how much a specific medical procedure will cost.

It’s called the Anthem Care Comparison Tool and it allows people with Anthem insurance to get an accurate cost estimate on common medical procedures ranging from a tonsillectomy to knee replacement to maternity services, says Tim Schmalz, Anthem’s vice president of Large Group Business.

Schmalz says the online tool allows consumers to compare the out-of-pocket cost of a medical procedure at different hospitals. “And they can also look and see how many services were performed by hospital X vs. hospital Y so they can get a feel for not only what’s it going to cost but who does more and who’s probably the better hospital to get it at,” says Schmalz.

“It’s becoming more and more apparent that the consumer is really in the driver’s seat, and for us to be successful and for the consumer to be successful in making their own decisions we have to make sure that we’re providing them with information and with the data that they need,” he says.

Another way that Anthem delivers information the consumer needs is through its LiveHealth Online tool that connects people to a physician via a smart phone, tablet computer or desktop computer, says Schmalz.

“Anybody who has a smart phone or a tablet can access the LiveHealth Online site and sign up and be in front of a doctor in a matter of minutes,” he says. That’s important because people don’t just get sick between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. “The future of health care is about access and giving members the power to be able to access care when they need it,” says Schmalz.

What’s also important is that the LiveHealth Online tool is integrated with Anthem’s benefits. “So if I have a $25 office visit copay on my health plan and I access Live Health Online and see a doc it’s going to cost me a $25 copay just like I’m walking into my doctor’s office,” he says. Physicians can also prescribe most medications online, except narcotics, and have that prescription sent to the local pharmacy, says Schmalz.

Another new plan that is helping both patients and physicians, Schmalz says, is Anthem’s Enhanced Personal Health Care program. The program is based on the principle that a patient’s primary care physician is best equipped to optimize their patient’s health if they have the right tools, information and resources.

The program allows primary care physicians to know when their patients have visited other doctors or hospitals, enables them to know if their patients are taking their medications, and informs them when patients are due for preventative care tests and procedures, says Schmalz.

“This is the way to make sure that the right care is being given at the right time and that patients remain compliant,” he says. “It’s just enhancing that relationship with the primary care doc.”n

“It’s becoming more and more apparent that the consumer is really in the driver’s seat, and for us to be successful and for the consumer to be successful in making their own decisions we have to make sure that we’re providing them with information that they need.”