The Alliance’s Amazing March Achievements

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The Alliance’s Amazing March Achievements

Happily, spring is here and we can finally put our snow shovels away!

Last month was a big one for the Alliance. At our All-Alliance meeting, we welcomed more than a hundred people (thank you for your support!), heard from Chris Koller, President of the Milbank Memorial Fund, and released our newest reports on inpatient price variation and statewide spending trends. We also released the latest installment of the eValue8 ™ analysis and responded to an invitation by the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee to submit recommendations on how to address rising health care costs.

Jim Andrianos, a consultant working with the Alliance, presented the results from our inpatient pricing variation analysis where we examined 171 distinct inpatient treatments for the commercially-insured in Washington. Our research shows price variation for each treatment not only across the state but by facility. Our keynote speaker at the meeting, Chris Koller, applauded our results saying, “It is a bit of a mystery that for half of the payers in our health care system, provider payments are public information, yet for the other half they are veiled in secrecy. There is growing evidence that the secrecy benefits those providers with market power with no improvement in health care quality. The Alliance report starts to pull back the veil and create the transparency that employers, policy makers and citizens need to make wise health care decisions.” We agree and appreciate the opportunity to work with a dedicated group of data suppliers who are willing to “open the black box” of pricing in order to make change happen.

Next, we looked at the results of our first statewide spending trend analysis, where we examined which factors have the greatest impact on inpatient care spending statewide. By looking at the prices for 287 inpatient treatments for commercially-insured patients for a two-year period (2015 – 2016), we found total inpatient spending declined by 1.5%, a reduction of $29.5 million. We also found that were was a decline in the volume of services amounting to $51.2 million that was attributed to a reduction in the number of inpatient treatments, and an increase of $21.7 million that was attributed to prices, both in intensity of services, such as use of more advanced technology, and in the actual price per treatment. The bottom line: while inpatient volume is decreasing, prices continue to go up.  This kind of analysis will be very helpful to our purchaser partners who want the opportunity to drill down into their own spending data to see the root causes of changes year over year.

Deputy Director Susie Dade previewed the results of the last eValue8™ report and I’d like to take a moment to thank the eighteen purchaser members of the Alliance who made that work possible.

  • Association of Washington Cities
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Boeing Company
  • Carpenters Trust of Western Washington
  • City of Seattle
  • Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
  • King County
  • Pacific Health Coalition
  • Point B
  • Port of Seattle
  • Puget Sound Energy
  • Seattle Chamber of Commerce
  • SEIU 775 Benefits Trust
  • Sound Health and Wellness Trust
  • Starbucks Coffee Company
  • Washington Health Benefit Exchange
  • Washington State Health Care Authority
  • Washington Teamsters Welfare Trust

The investment by these purchasers is significant and without them, we would not have the kind of quality analysis that we’ve had since we began using eValue8™ in 2008. This tool, available through the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and used by health care coalitions across the country, requires the plans to answer comprehensive questions about how they control health care costs, reduce and eliminate waste, improve patient health and safety, manage pharmaceuticals, as well as other areas, and then compares the results to the best rated plans in the country. We appreciate the efforts of the plans that participated: Aetna; Cigna; Kaiser Permanente HMO; Kaiser Permanente PPO (often called Options); Regence Blue Shield; and UnitedHealthcare. This year, KaiserPermanente HMO ranked the best in four of the seven categories.

If you are a member and you missed the All-Alliance meeting and are interested in viewing any of the presentations, click here.

And finally, you may recall that after I testified before the Senate HELP Committee last year, Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander issued a call for “specific recommendations to help address America’s rising health care costs” because “most Americans have no idea of the true price of the health care services they buy – which also drives up costs.” Fortunately, given our recent work on inpatient price variation, I had a lot to say on that point. And you can view all of my comments here.

Senator Alexander thanked us for our input and said his “top priority is to pass legislation that will give all Americans better health outcomes and better experiences at a lower cost” and that he is optimistic that “we will be able to get something done to curb this growing burden on American taxpayers, employers, and family members.” Senator Alexander said he will be working in a bipartisan way with Senator Patty Murray, the lead Democrat on the HELP Committee, and others to take the more than 400 recommendations he received and develop a package of legislation that the Committee will vote on early this summer. The bottom line is the Alliance has an important part to play in the national health care debate and your involvement and commitment to its mission is what makes that possible.

For this, I thank you.


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