CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The health care cost clock on reads $14 billion and counting. As the clock continues to calculate Tennessee’s escalating health care spending, it is expected to reach $34 billion by the end of 2003.

The cost clock is just one of four new features located on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s affordability Web site,

Other key enhancements to the Web site include a generic drug calculator, medical value index, and hospital procedure risk profile—all designed to give consumers important information on the quality and cost of their health care choices.

“The new Web site elements are intended to help Tennesseans understand and assess the value and risk associated with a specific medical service,” said Dr. Steve Coulter, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “The site attempts to answer how the specific technology or procedure will improve a person’s quality of life and whether or not it’s cost-effective.”

Located in the Before you Buy section, the medical value index and hospital risk profile provide descriptions and key points on various procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, hysterectomy surgery, and knee and hip replacements.

Topics addressed in these sections include health results, safety ratings, alternatives, cost effectiveness, number of deaths, severity of illness, and financial risk.

“People facing a medical procedure have many questions. Will I live longer if I have this treatment? Are there any complications? How much will it cost?” said Bill Cecil, director of health policy research for BlueCross. “Consumers can now visit the Web site and use these evaluation tools to make important and often intimidating decisions regarding their health care needs.”

According to Coulter, the more informed a consumer is the better prepared they are to make tough choices that not only affect their health but also impact their wallet.

“Many people don’t realize that the principal difference between brand-name and equivalent generic prescription drugs is cost,” Coulter explained. “A visitor to can use the generic drug calculator to compare the cost of brand- name versus generic drugs. What they’ll discover is that the savings can be significant.”

“Countless Web sites exist that provide important medical information for people around the world,” Cecil said. “However, is a site dedicated to health care quality and cost issues specifically for Tennesseans.”

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at