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Insurance companies pay anywhere between $22,000 and over $100,000 for a joint replacement at IU Health's University Hospital, according to Turquoise Health. Photo: IU Health

Turquoise Health has raised $5 million in a seed funding round that will expand operations at the health care price transparency startup.

Why it matters: Federal law requires hospitals to publish all of their various prices, but many hospitals don't comply or barely comply. Turquoise brings the data together and makes it easier to digest for patients, researchers and others in health care.

Turquoise's investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, Box Group and several individual investors including ex-Athenahealth founder and current Zus Health founder Jonathan Bush, and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

  • Why Klay Thompson? "This has the potential to be a very boring subject," CEO Chris Severn said. But Thompson, a popular player who has been injured several times, could help get this data in front of more patients who otherwise wouldn't know or care, he said.

How it works: People can search Turquoise's website for the prices of procedures at various hospitals.

  • For example, the cash price of a chest X-ray in Chicago is between $43 and $435. The amount that health insurers pay for that same X-ray varies wildly both among hospitals and within the same hospital — a longstanding reality.
  • Turquoise engineers wrote more than 700 programs to collect and parse the data that hospitals are required to post (which is often done in clunky formats or sometimes completely hidden).

Between the lines: Price transparency tools don't really help patients since most health care situations aren't "shoppable."

  • That's why Turquoise is targeting hospitals, insurance companies, employer groups, vendors and researchers.
  • The site is free for anyone to use, but organizations can pay $500 to $3,600 a month to license the data and gain access to more analyses.
  • Employer groups could use the data to find better-priced providers, and hospitals and insurers could use the data in contract negotiations.
  • Severn said Turquoise has 30 customers, including Stanford researchers and several hospitals that he declined to name.

The bottom line: Many startups have launched with a goal of increasing transparency in health care, an industry that has been built on keeping prices secret.

  • Federal regulations requiring more transparency are leading to demand for companies that can help make sense of it all.

Go deeper

Biden policy aimed at competition could impact hospital consolidation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden’s recent executive order instructing agencies to develop policies to promote competition in the economy hasn’t received much attention.

  • But it could lead to new efforts to control health costs if his administration and Congress respond with measures to stem consolidation in the health care industry and promote competition to drive down prices.
Jul 22, 2021 - Health

Hospital systems to Congress: "Enough is enough" on gun violence

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

More than a dozen CEOs of major health systems sent a letter to Congressional leaders Wednesday calling for support of President Biden's proposal to fund $5 billion in hospital and community-based gun violence intervention programs.

Why it matters: The letter from some of the top health systems in the country — including CommonSpirit Health, RWJBarnabas Health, Sanford Health and Intermountain — comes as gun violence reaches critical levels.

  • In 2020, there were a record 43,559 firearms-related deaths and more than 39,000 additional injuries recorded. The country on pace to surpass records again this year.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.