Hospitals in North Carolina are now starting to post costs for medical services online, responding to a new federal requirement that took effect Jan. 1. 

While access to hospital charges will provide people a starting point, the information might not help the millions of people with health insurance. That’s because hospital charges are the amount people pay out of pocket for care, rather than the rates health plans have negotiated with care providers and facilities.

For millions of people with UnitedHealthcare coverage, they can access quality and cost estimates that are customized based on their specific health plan and reflect actual contracted rates with health care providers and facilities.

The online and mobile resources provide independently validated quality metrics, alongside actual patient ratings, while in some cases enabling people to earn financial incentives for simply accessing the estimates.

More than one-third (36 percent) of Americans say they have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a UnitedHealthcare survey.

People who use online/mobile transparency resources are more likely to select high-quality health care providers across all specialties, while on average, saving 36 percent compared to non-users.

A public website, uhc.com/transparency, 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.

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