Purchaser power in the health care market

A stick with a carrot tied to the end of it.

Employers have an important role to play in incentivizing high-quality care.

More than half of Americans get their health insurance through their employer. As a group, employers have enormous power to shape the health care market. But, employers rarely realize this. That’s why it’s important and encouraging to see leading employers in our state, such as Boeing and Starbucks (both Alliance members), step up and demand higher quality health care for their employees.

Since 2004, the Alliance has provided a platform where employers can with a collective voice speak to health care providers and health plans. We have helped, through our performance measurement and reporting, provide the data employers need to make smarter health care purchasing decisions. But as a community, we can do more. Our health care system is market-based. Competition should breed better quality. But if the major consumers of health care aren’t looking carefully at quality, then everyone loses.

Scott Armstrong, CEO of Group Health Cooperative (another Alliance member), and Patricia Smith, CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, made this very point in a guest opinion for The Seattle Times. Using free resources like Washington Health Alliance’s eValue8, an evaluation of health plans in our state, and the Community Checkup, which publicly reports quality measures for local hospitals, medical groups and clinics, more than ever before, health care purchasers have the tools they need to make health plans and providers compete on quality, not just cost or choice.

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Published: December 17, 2014

About Washington Health Alliance

The Washington Health Alliance is a place where stakeholders work collaboratively to transform Washington state’s health care system for the better. The Alliance brings together organizations that share a commitment to drive change in our health care system by offering a forum for critical conversation and aligned efforts by stakeholders: purchasers, providers, health plans, consumers and other health care partners. The Alliance believes strongly in transparency and offers trusted and credible reporting of progress on measures of health care quality and value. The Alliance is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit with more than 185 member organizations. A cornerstone of the Alliance's work is the Community Checkup, a report to the public comparing the performance of medical groups, hospitals and health plans and offering a community-level view on important measures of health care quality (www.wacommunitycheckup.org).

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