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Start-Up Seeks To Crowdsource Prices Of Birth Control Pills

We hear a lot about how health care prices need to be more transparent, about how patients and doctors need to know more about price tags as they make medical decisions. And we hear a lot about how the state is gathering the information — but we aren't seeing a whole lot of it yet. Sounds like a job for....crowdsourcing!

What if there were a site that would gather in reports of prices from patients themselves, and share them to cast light on what's really going on in the health care system? Our friends over at ClearHealthCosts are doing just that. Sadly, they're doing it in New York for now. But they clearly have national ambitions — witness this nationwide project they just launched, gathering what's being charged for birth control pills. Please pitch in here — it might make paying for pills a bit less painful if you get to drop a dime on the pharmacy's pricing at the same time. And let's put Massachusetts on the map!

From the ClearHealthCosts blog:

So we got curious—what are women paying for those pills? Thus the Price of Birth Control Map was born.

There’s a lot of interest in this topic these days. On Aug. 1, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, saying all insurers should cover contraceptives for women free, as one of several preventive services under the new health care law. That recommendation is to become standard practice–but not until 2013. It will not affect uninsured women.

We dug around, and identified some of the top-selling oral contraceptives. Then we looked at the out-of-pocket cost for a one-month supply. The results—which are still admittedly anecdotal—surprised us. The price of your pill might just depend on the block on which you choose to buy it.

Here are some of the takeaways: Newer drugs like Yaz and its generics are expensive. But independent pharmacies tended to charge less than the chain pharmacies in the same neighborhood for brand name contraceptives—a $5 or $10 savings. The price of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo also varied, as did the cost of more established Ortho generics.and please stay tuned for more about clearhealthcosts, a highly intriguing start-up...

This program aired on August 3, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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