This June, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) will launch a health transparency website where members can login to see current deductibles, copays and other information. Members will also be able to search for facilities or physicians by quality and cost metrics, said CalPERS Center for Innovation Chief David Cowling.

The site, hosted by Castlight will allow members to be smarter about medical choices, said Cowling. “It’s an innovative product in the sense of bringing transparency to the consumer.”

Other innovations are also being piloted at CalPERS, said Cowling, such as “reference-based pricing,” in which a certain category of care — such as hip and knee replacements – are set to a specific price, based on one, usually lowest-cost, provider.

CalPERS and its health partner set a maximum price that CalPERS will pay for hip or knee replacements. Members who have the procedure at one of 38 designated facilities around the state don’t have to worry about any costs above $30,000. If, however, members choose a different facility, then CalPERS will pay up to $30,000, but anything over that is out of pocket.

“The idea is to get consumers engaged in the decision-making process,” said Cowling. And CalPERS has rolled the same idea out to non-emergency procedures such as colonoscopy, cataract surgery and arthroscopy.

The new site is only the latest product of CalPERS’ culture of innovation. In fact, CalPERS may be the only state agency with a designated Center for Innovation.

“I think CalPERS as an organization tries to take the position of, ‘Go for it!’ because I can guarantee you we won’t get any better if we don’t do anything,” said CalPERS Deputy Executive Officer Ann Boynton at a recent TechWire event. “And even if we fail, we will have learned what not to do the next time out.”

This story was originally published by Techwire

Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.