We’re joining the mission to make health care quality and cost information more accessible to New Jersey residents.This is an important effort that has the potential to improve health outcomes and make care more affordable – laudable goals considering the nation’s health care system ranks among the least efficient in the world, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis.One solution could involve more widespread use of health quality and cost resources. That’s why UnitedHealthcare has launched a new public website, www.uhc.com/transparency, which enables anyone to access market average prices for nearly 800 common medical services.By using this tool, we learned there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide. For example, in Newark, a knee MRI can cost from $441 to $1,963 while the same procedure in Trenton can range from $445 to $3,432.For this reason, providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.The number of online and mobile resources that enable people to access health care quality and cost information is growing and so is the number of people who are using these tools. Nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care as they would for other consumer products and services, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.These resources are far more accurate and useful than those of past generations, and in some cases provide people with estimates based on actual contracted rates with physicians and hospitals, including likely out-of-pocket costs based on their current health plan benefits. Some resources also include quality information about specific physicians, as determined by independent standards. However, keep in mind that a study by Families U.S.A. concluded that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes.For those who may not have access to a computer, people can call their health plan to discuss quality and cost transparency information, as well as talk with their health care professional about alternative treatment settings, including urgent care and telehealth options.Whichever way people choose to research their options, people can save money and select health care professionals based on objective information. A UnitedHealthcare analysis showed that people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care (7 percent more likely) and orthopedics (9 percent more likely). In addition, the analysis found that people who use the transparency resources before receiving health care services pay 36 percent less than non-users.As you can see, transparency resources are becoming important tools for consumers to access quality care and avoid surprise medical bills. I encourage you to utilize these free resources, which will help you make better health care decisions and prepare for the cost of medical treatments.