Washington state lags behind on health care cost transparency

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Washington state lags behind on health care cost transparency

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the National Employer Leadership Seminar, an invitation-only event sponsored by the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI).  The goal of the seminar was to share best practices in engaging purchasers to move the market to purchasing for value.

There were many opportunities to talk about success in our state. I was pleased to share a podium with Julie Sylvester, executive director of business development at Virginia Mason Medical Center. She and I talked about how Washington is accelerating the move toward value-based purchasing, including Julie’s leadership work with the Puget Sound High Value Network.  The infographics from the Savvy Shopper series the Alliance developed under a contract with the Washington State Health Care Authority were a big hit.  Leaders from Minnesota and Missouri asked if they could use these materials in their communities. The Healthier Washington initiative was recognized by Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as an example of innovative work being done at the state level.

However, despite our many accomplishments as a state, Washington is not a national leader in reporting transparently on total cost of care (TCoC). The difference between our state and regions that are leaders in TCoC reporting, including Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and St. Louis, is that we don’t have access to claims-level cost data. The collaborative organizations in these regions have developed excellent public and private reports to communicate about practice variation to help purchasers design benefits strategically and providers improve care. Their work was funded by major grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that are near completion. Not having access to claims-level cost data has been a significant lost opportunity for Washington.

My hope is that the second procurement process now underway to implement the WA-APCD that was signed into law a year ago will propel us forward.  The Alliance hopes to be the successful bidder for the Lead Organization role if we can develop a reasonable and strong public-private relationship that leverages the technical and administrative infrastructure the Alliance community has worked so hard to fund and build for over a decade.  Access to pricing data by the Alliance and other organizations will allow us to reposition our state as a national leader. I am looking forward to the day when the Alliance can report on all the elements of value – quality, patient experience and cost.

Thanks for all you do to keep the Alliance strong.

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