If confirmed as Secretary of HHS, Tom Price will oversee a $1 trillion budget – roughly one-third of all health expenditures. His proposed legislation “Empowering Patients First” seeks to control costs by giving patients more choices and providing the information required to make them. He calls for publicly available standardized information on the price and quality of physicians, hospitals and other health care institutions.
It sounds like Dr. Price is prescribing a single data system.
Medicare has had a single data system on the over-65 population for decades. Since 2005, these data have informed Hospital Compare, a consumer oriented website comparing the quality of over 4000 hospitals. And while prices in Medicare are relatively fixed, these same data have shown substantial variation in costs because the quantity of service – the number of hospital admissions, procedures and physician visits – varies substantially from place to place.
But Medicare is only one piece of the data puzzle. A National Bureau of Economic Research report[nber.org] added another piece last year with data from large insurance companies like Aetna and United. For the under-65 commercially insured population, it’s not just the quantity of services that are all over the map – it’s also the prices.