What's the Latest Development?

A California start up wants to empower consumers to compare health care costs, just the way they would when buying a camera or washing machine. The company's website works like so many that already compare prices for buying airline tickets or renting cars. "The company sells its tool to self-insured employers, who pay a fee per covered member per month, and in turn offer employees access so they can become more responsible users of their benefits."

What's the Big Idea?

Health care costs are poorly distributed. According to the start up, CastLight Health, a colonoscopy costs anywhere from $563 to $3,967 within a single zip code. "EKGs can range from $27 to $143, while the price for a set of three spinal x-rays varies from as little as $38 to as high as $162." The success of the company will ultimately depend on insurers' willingness to share their prices. Companies Cigna and Aetna have agreed to publish their procedure costs while others have refused.