Pelham journalist Jeanne Pinder creates website to make health-care costs transparent

Pelham journalist Jeanne Pinder wanted to do something to inform people about the price of health care because of the high and variable cost of getting treatment in the United States.

Pinder decided to focus on increasing transparency in the health-care system after working as an editor and journalist for 20 years at the New York Times. She won a pitch contest similar to “Shark Tank” and started ClearHealthCosts, a website that lets people see the actual cost of medical procedures. While sources of the data come from traditional reporting and database curation, people can also contribute their own prices with the website’s interactive software. 

“Truthfully, a lot of people in health care understand that this is a huge problem,” said Pinder. “They might have experienced it, or maybe a friend or relative did. But understanding it doesn’t mean change is here. The interlocking practices that perpetuate the system—’Oh, no, we can’t tell you what that will cost’—are so ingrained and so mutually beneficial to all the incumbents that change is going to be slow to come. Finding where people are willing and able to make change is the big challenge.”

Pinder discovered that the exact same procedure could cost $50 in one place and almost $600 a few blocks down the road after calling doctors, hospitals and patients. The website gives users a place where they can see the cost of a given procedure in a variety of locations. ClearHealthCosts also helps them understand when it is cheaper to pay out of pocket rather than using an insurance plan.

Pinder said she realized the project would be successful after it received its first grant in 2010 and gained audience following the release of a prototype.

The website has gained media partners such as CBS News and WNYC. The success garnered Pinder recognition. She was featured in Crain’s New York Business as one of the 2019 Notable Women in Tech and was called a “benevolent genius” by Billfold in 2015.