All I can say is, it’s about damn time.

For years, we’ve been begging, pleading and practically screaming for employees to stop acting like entitled little beneficiaries and start acting like informed, responsible consumers when it comes to health care.

I’ve been at the front of that parade, waving my ink-stained baton and castigating every whiny health care user I come across. I’ve also gone out of my way to document (and celebrate) those in the business who do the same.

Any campaign for real health care reform in this country needs to start with the attitude with which we – as consumers – approach it. Because that’s what we are: consumers. We are paying for a service, not being granted some divine right. The sooner we understand that – all of us – the sooner we can affect some real change.

All of that being said (as I step back down off my splintered soapbox), it’s about time we’ve cracked the shell of pricing mystery. This week, four major carriers – Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth Group – announced they’ll share claims data with a new big-brained nonprofit called Health Care Cost Institute. And if you think this isn’t a big deal, we’re talking five billion claims representing more than $1 trillion.

This is unprecedented, and while everyone’s got the privacy issues covered, this could be the chink in the dam that just might flood the market with real-time provider pricing data. In fact, the info they’re feeding to this band of excitable academics dates back to 2000 and will be updated twice a year. Up to now, we’ve been stuck with just Medicare data, providing us an obviously skewed perspective. Now we’ll get info from major carriers about how much their forking over for medical procedures from the mundane (some stitches) to the exotic (liver transplant).

Who knows, maybe we’ll find out why medical care’s so expensive, if different areas of the country face different prices (I’m looking at you, Kentucky) and how we might be become better-informed consumers.

Now if we could only figure out what kind of medical care Castro’s getting…