Cost estimator interfaces allow health plan members to be more informed when seeking care and to choose providers based on plan coverage and benefits. Ultimately, most firms provide relevant and useful tools that foster cost transparency and encourage member engagement.

Corporate Insight evaluated the 14 firms in the Health Plan Monitor coverage group that offer these tools in our recent report on cost estimator interfaces. We found that the pathways to find cost estimates vary, as do the clarity and range of the estimates. Insurers clearly see estimators as important to the member site experience. But some could improve by looking to others rated as best-in-class.

Standards emerge across the industry for cost estimator interfaces

Overall, the tools offered by health plans differ in both navigation and the number of steps needed to reach a result. Some are hard to find, while others suffer from poor search logic—for example, not recognizing the term “x-ray” without the hyphen. Many firms offer comprehensive cost breakdowns, but few relate costs to members’ plan balances.

There is much more consistency across the coverage group in tools’ standard features and functionality; however, some firms use third-party platforms, while others use in-house tools. All the tools from our coverage group firms have some room for improvement, but many succeed in providing useful cost estimates or ranges.

Best practices for effective healthcare cost estimator interfaces

Certain best practices emerged in our research. In order to provide a seamless and effective member experience that offers cost transparency and encourages engagement, health plans should:

  • Combine locator and estimator tools
  • Provide cost breakdowns and indicators for low-cost options
  • Provide multiple pathways to a cost estimate
  • Limit time and steps needed to reach a cost estimate
  • Include disclaimers or focus on estimate ranges to avoid misleading users

A stand-out example from BCBS of Illinois

Firms can look to the BCBS of Illinois tool for a best-in-class approach. The firm’s cost estimator interface is a well-designed and integrated locator and estimator tool with a comprehensive and intuitive approach to delivering cost estimates. BCBS of Illinois provides a granular cost breakdown with visualizations of member’s plan balances before and after seeking treatment for the searched service or procedure. These features, coupled with the tool’s findability and strong predictive search logic, provide a seamless experience.

BCBS of Illinois Cost Estimator Interface

Subscribers can read the full report on cost estimator interfaces on our client portal. For access, or for more competitive intelligence on the user experience that health plans provide to members, check out Corporate Insight’s Health Plan Monitor research service offerings.