We’re changing the conversation about health care by using the tools of journalism to bring transparency to health care, and tell people what stuff costs.
We launched our New Orleans PriceCheck partnership in April 2017, reporting on and crowdsourcing health prices with our award-winning journalist partners, investigative reporter and anchor Lee Zurik at WVUE FOX 8 Live and Jed Lipinski and Manuel Torres at NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune, and their teams.
How do we do it? We use shoe-leather journalism, data journalism and crowdsourcing to reveal the mysteries of pricing. This is a continuation of our national partnership strategy at ClearHealthCosts; to read about all our partnerships, go here.
In New Orleans:
- In our first flight of reporting, we did stories including one that collected 2,100 shares, Facebook Lives with 8,000 views and up, and immeasurable buzz.
- We saved one woman $3,786, and several others told us of hundreds in savings.
- We have CEO’s coming to us to tell their stories, Deep Throats whispering in our ears, and people sending us love letters of the sort most journalists don’t see these days.
- The insurance commissioner came to us, to call these billing practices “unconscionable,” as did several state and local legislators.
- The Louisiana Legislature just passed a “balance billing” consumer protection bill, similar to one that had been stalled for 10 years.
We have hundreds and hundreds of people sharing their prices and their stories, with many sending in their full bills and benefit statements, to build a community-created guide to health care prices. It’s an act of co-creation with our community. We have 400 voicemails and as many emails, in addition to shares on our special interactive software.
We have providers asking if they can send in their prices, and if they can advertise on our project pages.
The CEO of Tulane Medical Center (owned by for-profit chain HCA!) sent an internal email yelling about us, and another medical group held a meeting to see if they could stop us.
Our Fox 8 Live partner won the May sweeps — that’s television’s biggest yardstick — with our reporting. Our work was featured in an Advance Digital in-house newsletter, (they’re the NOLA.com parent) and the president of NOLA.com mentioned our partnership as a billboard achievement next to NOLA.com’s coming New York Times partnership.
Our metrics show visits from the US Department of Justice, all the major players in the health care ecosystem there, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (a vet was featured in one piece) and many others. We have heard from fraudbusting lawyers.
And … We have completely changed the conversation in the space of two short months. Nobody’s talking about Obamacare: they’re talking about a blood test that could cost $522 one place and $19 a couple of blocks away.
People are feeling empowered, and energized, and sometimes even in control of their spending.
Here’s a page with our coverage collected together.
Our partners say things like “over the moon” and “the Holy Grail of engagement” about our work. One said he’s “like a kid in candy store.”
Selected links: If you have time for only a few, try these.
WVUE FOX 8 News, owned by Louisiana Media Company, and operated by Raycom Media, leads New Orleans, Louisiana, the state and the region in the field of broadcast investigative journalism. Lee Zurik, the chief investigative reporter and anchor, has won multiple awards for investigative journalism, including one in April 2017 from the Investigative Reporters and Editors for his series “Medical Waste,” about health care pricing.
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune is part of the largest media company in Louisiana, delivering news and information with an intense focus on communities, reaching an audience of 7 million unique readers each month. Jed Lipinski, our primary partner there, has been part of multiple award-winning journalism projects.
Cracking the Code coverage
Dec. 5: Louisiana Legislature passes consumer protection legislation in the wake of “Cracking the Code” launch.
Sept. 21: “’The Internet hates secrets’: Clear Health Costs works with newsrooms to bring healthcare costs out of hiding,” Laura Hazard Owen, NiemanLab.
Sept. 14: “Health care costs: A problem hiding in plain sight,” Health News Review podcast.
Aug. 29: “How ClearHealthCosts helped New Orleans newsrooms save money for readers,” Bianca Fortis, Mediashift.
Aug. 24: “It’s a magical formula for journalism, and a great way to take the powers that be by surprise.” We did an “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.
July 29: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Top secret no longer: What insurers pay, and what it means for you.”
July 26: Lee Zurik, WVUE Fox 8 Live, “Dramatic price disparities found when comparing insurers.”
July 26: Jed Lipinski, NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune: “MRI for $1005 or $464: Hit to your wallet depends on your insurer.”
July 25: Facebook Live at NOLA.com.
July 15: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Lab charges gone wrong: We saved her $247.”
July 10: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Journalism, trust and our New Orleans partnership.”
June 27: Lee Zurik, WVUE Fox 8 Live hour-long special, “Cracking the Code: A Special Report.”
June 22: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Providers are newly willing to post cash medical prices: Some learnings from our New Orleans launch.”
May 28: Tim Williamson, NOLA.com: “Last summer, I made a pledge to you that we would build a progressive, dynamic and forward-thinking media company that would serve the New Orleans community for generations to come,” writes Tim Williamson, president at NOLA Media Group, featuring the recent achievements of his staff, including our “Cracking the Code” partnership, as well as their partnership with The New York Times.
May 26: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Tulane health chief slams ‘Cracking the code’; meanwhile, New Orleans woman saves $3,786 with our data.”
May 25: Jed Lipinski: “She saved $3,786 by shopping her MRI; here’s how you can save, too.”
How “Cracking the Code” works: Our work, spotlighted in the Advance Notice newsletter for Advance Digital publications (Q-and-A excerpted from in-house newsletter, reposted with permission).
May 22: Lee Zurik, “Routine blood work leads to shocking bills for many consumers.”
May 20: Jeanne Pinder,ClearHealthCosts, “She saved $3,786 on an MRI: How people use our data.”
May 14: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts: “Cracking the Code: Voices from our New Orleans partnership.”
May 17: Lee Zurik, “One consumer’s lesson, from shoulder pain to facility fee.”
Jeanne Pinder, NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune, “You’re at an in-network hospital, but is the ER doctor in-network?”
May 10: Jed Lipinski: “Her doctor’s visit co-pay jumped from $40 to $114. The hospital could not explain why.”
May 9: “Crowdsourcing may bring transparency to medical charges.” Trudy Lieberman, The Journal-Advocate in Sterling, Colo.; The Shelbyville Daily Union; The Kearney Hub and others.
May 8: Lee Zurik: “10 Questions to ask in advance about prices.”
Jeanne Pinder on NOLA.com: “10 questions to ask about prices.”
May 5: Here’s Lee Zurik of WVUE Fox 8 Live in a new installment of our Cracking the Code partnership in New Orleans. The topic: What happens when people don’t know prices in advance, and wind up with burdensome — or ruinous — bills.
Jed Lipinski, NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune: “If patients don’t ask, hospitals won’t tell what things cost — and the price can be steep.”
May 4: Lee Zurik. “There’s nothing clear about health costs at some local hospitals.”
The same piece on TelemundoAmarillo.com.
May 4: Jed Lipinski and Manuel Torres, Facebook Live, “How does an army vet get charged $8,000 for an MRI?”
May 3: Lee Zurik: “‘Absolutely ridiculous’ medical bills show critical need for transparency.”.
May 3: Jed Lipinski, “Why was Army vet charged $4,033 for $450 MRI? It’s ‘complicated,’ hospital says.”
April 26: Jeanne Pinder on Pat Salber’s podcast at The Doctor Weighs In.
April 21: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts: “An off-the-charts launch.”
April 19: Lee Zurik. “Cracking the Code gets big response, but we still need you.”
April 12: Lee Zurik: “Transparency is key: How you can help.”
April 9: Lee Zurik, “What it’s al about: Come over and contribute.”
April 6: Jeanne Pinder, ClearHealthCosts, “Welcome to New Orleans: PriceCheck expands.”
Here’s Jed’s leadoff piece: “A blood test: $522 or $19?”
Jed’s how-to: Find and share prices with our PriceCheck tool.
How you can contribute
DID YOU SAVE money with information from ClearHealthCosts or “Cracking the Code”? Tell us by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DO YOU HAVE PRICES to share to help build our community-created guide to health care? Or are you looking for price information?
Click over to our New Orleans PriceCheck interactive software at WVUE Fox 8 Live and at NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune. Search our prices in our New Orleans-focused partnership. For non-New Orleans shares and searches, here’s the search and share page on our national ClearHealthCosts site.
ARE YOU A PROVIDER wishing to share prices?
This page has a sample spreadsheet showing the data that will let us include your prices. Download, fill it out and return to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email us with any questions.
To discuss a potential partnership, email us at email@example.com.
About our data and our work
The information in our database comes from several sources. First, our journalists conduct a direct survey of local providers to collect cash or self-pay prices for a range of 30-35 common, “shoppable” procedures. Through our interactive software tool, we encourage community members to add to the site by sharing their pricing information from bills or “explanation of benefits” statements. We also include data on the Medicare reimbursement rate, what the government pays for a procedure in a given area under the Medicare program for older Americans, since that’s the closest thing to a fixed or benchmark price in the marketplace. That figure is computed via a formula used to price 8,400 procedures in 90 separate geographical areas in the system used by the federal government.
More information about our nationwide partnerships is collected here.
Articles highlighting our data and our media partnerships have appeared in the Harvard Business Review and in JAMA Internal Medicine. We’ve also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, USA Today and elsewhere. To read more about our work and partnerships, visit our media page.
While we do not have every price for every procedure at every provider across the nation — that data does not exist anywhere — we do have a “community-created guide to health costs” where people can share and search health cost data, as well as explanation and interpretation of the data from our news partners.
To search or share your costs and experiences, click here.
To discuss a potential partnership, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.