While politicians and wonks inside the Beltway bubble squabble over the GOP’s latest health care proposal, real change is coming, with or without DC’s help. This WSJ piece gives an excellent overview of the problems with the status quo (huge price fluctuation, lack on consumer information when shopping for care) and the momentum building behind the price transparency movement:
But states are increasingly requiring payers and providers to reveal that information. A few states specifically outlaw gag clauses in health-care contracts. Sixteen states have “all-payer claims databases” designed to collect insurance claims data and use it to monitor trends and identify high- and low-price providers. And some 38 states now require hospitals to report at least some pricing information, although only two—Massachusetts and New Hampshire—rated an “A” in Catalyst for Payment Reform’s annual report card for making the information accessible and usable by patients.Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are sleuthing out negotiated rates from claims data and making them available to consumers and employers in various forms. Healthcare Bluebook aims to do for health care what the Kelley Blue Book does for used cars: It analyzes negotiated rates paid for thousands of medical services in every ZIP Code—supplied by employers and other clients—and posts what it considers a “fair” price for each so consumers can evaluate what they’re being charged.
Read the whole thing. Efforts like these will provide the real substance of health care reform for years to come. Politicians aren’t talking about these kinds of things because they’re not as splashy as federal policy. That means that media, in turn, isn’t as zeroed in on it as they could be (our thanks to the Journal for bucking this trend).If we’re ever going to succeed in bending the health care cost curve, gradual reforms that make the system more competitive will be more important in the long-run than high-profile white noise legislation like Obamacare.