The State of California is the latest to jump on the consumer pricing transparency bandwagon, reaching an agreement with the University of California a San Francisco (UCSF) to build a database with information on healthcare prices and quality.
The state is using a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services awarded to the California Department of Insurance as part of an initiative under the Affordable Care Act to build the database. Researchers at UCSF will collect and analyze data to develop the price and quality information for common medical procedures and episodes of care and make it available online. Initially, UCSF will focus on average prices for geographic regions within the state. It will use private commercial health insurance and public health programs such as Medicare for data.
"There are increasing calls for transparency about price and quality in California and nationally", said R. Adams Dudley, M.D., Associate Director for Research at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, at UCSF, said in a statement. "We look forward to making more information available to California patients and their families, so they can make more informed decisions about where to get health care."
The pricing transparency trend has been all over the country over the last year or so. Recently, the American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national trade association representing the health insurance industry, announced a collaborative agreement with HealthSparq, a Portland, Ore.-based vendor that provides pricing data transparency software. AHIP will market HealthSparq’s software to AHIP’s health plan members. Analysis from the Washington, D.C.-based Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center indicated that U.S. healthcare industry could save an estimated $100 billion over the next decade by providing patients, physicians, employers and policymakers more information on healthcare prices.