Healthcare leaders demand cost data transparency at Crain's leadership summit

The time for questioning transparency on price and quality in healthcare has passed. Now is the time to start publishing this data, the panelists agreed at Crain's seventh annual Health Care Leadership Summit in Detroit, according to Crain's Detroit.

"Hospitals and insurance companies need to stop hoarding data so physicians can make [patient care] decisions and take the 35 percent of waste out of the system," Brian Connolly said on the panel. He is the former CEO of Wayne County, Mich.-based Oakwood Healthcare, which is now part of Royal Oak, Mich.-based Beaumont Health.

Jay LaBine, MD, CMO of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Priority Health, said most people are as unaware of price and quality differences among hospitals as Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow were about the Wizard of Oz, according to the report. Earlier this year, Priority Health, a health insurance provider, began offering its employer clients a cost estimator that can be used to make treatment decisions based on patients' individual health plans.

However, some employers, such as General Motors, have found many of their employees lack access to technology that would enable them to browse the Internet to compare prices and shop for services. Jessica Gubing, director of North American Health, Welfare and Wellness Programs for General Motors, said the automaker signed a contract earlier this year with San Francisco-based Castlight to provide its online tools to obtain lower-cost, high quality healthcare services.

However, just 5 percent of consumers use price information to inform healthcare choices, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. While other surveys have indicated higher rates of use, Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, said routine use price information is low. Dr. Kullgren believes this could improve if Michigan implements an all-claims payer database, according to the report.

On Oct. 28, Michigan Sen. Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion) introduced a bill that would mandate health insurers and carriers to submit various price and claims data to the state Department of Insurance and Financial Services, according to the report. Eleven other states have adopted all-claims payer databases.

"Michigan is a delta adopter. There is lots of experience with ACPD in other states," Dr. Kullgren said. "This is not federally driven. States are implementing it based on their needs."

For instance, in New Hampshire, patients can input their health information, type of service needed and where they live to receive quality information and comparative pricing, according to the report.

Chris Duke, director of the Altarum Institute's Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care in Ann Arbor, moderated the panel discussion. He pointed out fixing healthcare's transparency issues will not be an easy task. "Neither the consumer nor the provider knows the cost or quality. Why? It's complicated. But our system as built for a different time when people were shielded from costs."

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