Health care just became a bit more transparent

medical checkupFor the second time in as many weeks, upstate New York's ailing economy got a $100 million shot in the arm. Today, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a historic nationwide reform of the consumer reimbursement system for out-of-network health care charges. A new not-for-profit company, FAIR Health, Inc., and an upstate research network headquartered at Syracuse University will develop a new, independent database for consumer reimbursement. The team will also create a new website that gives consumers the chance to compare prices before they choose their doctors--something that's never been done before.

Joining Syracuse University in the upstate research network are the State University of New York at Buffalo, Cornell University, University of Rochester, and SUNY Upstate Medical University. The new database will make FAIR Health a center for health care research and an engine of health care reform.

"FAIR Health and the upstate research network headquartered at Syracuse University will bring much-needed transparency, accountability and fairness to a broken consumer reimbursement system we have called Code Blue," said Cuomo. "By transforming this system for consumers nationwide, New York proves its reputation as a reform leader for the nation."

This also throws a lifeline to a region that's consistently seen business pull out of the area or close shop altogether. "Today is truly a triple win for consumers, New York and the nation," Cuomo said.

Cuomo's announcement drew praise from many in office. Nancy Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said, "This is an important step forward for consumers, who too often are unable to penetrate the secrecy and bureaucracy of insurance companies. Transparency is one of the central goals of health insurance. For consumers struggling to navigate today's health insurance system, knowledge is power."

Echoing DeParle's sentiments was U.S. Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, D-W. Va. and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. "This is an important victory for everybody who believes there needs to be more transparency and accountability in the health insurance industry," he said. "I congratulate Attorney General Cuomo and his tenacious attorneys for forcing the insurance industry to finally end a practice that has shortchanged American consumers by billions of dollars."

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