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Seeing the Whole Picture

Ana-English.gifAnyone who’s looked at an impressionist painting at close range knows that until you step back and look at the whole picture, it’s hard to know what you’re really looking at. The recent New York Times article, “The Experts Were Wrong About the Best Places for Better and Cheaper Health Care,” demonstrates this phenomenon perfectly. Turns out the “experts” were wrong because they were missing a significant portion of the picture of health care, resulting in some false assumptions. They had access to Medicare data only, and assumed incorrectly that communities with low costs to treat Medicare would provide care at lower costs for the entire community.

The article begins by highlighting Grand Junction – an area long praised for their low cost to treat Medicare recipients in their community – and their disproportionately high costs when it comes to providing care to the commercially insured. CIVHC was interviewed for the article and I was thrilled to see the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (CO APCD) mentioned confirming the results of the study. While the analysis was conducted using data from three commercial health insurance payers, the CO APCD contains over 20 commercial payers, Medicaid and Medicare, and was enacted in legislation precisely for the purpose of providing a complete picture of health care spending and utilization in the state.

In fact, when the CO APCD was first launched publicly in 2012, statewide maps showed similar discrepancies in prices with areas like Grand Junction, the Western Slope and others with per capita costs of greater than 110% of the state average for the commercially insured. More current and detailed information on what makes up those costs is available now on the CO APCD website for Medicaid and commercial payers, and Medicare data will be available on the website in the future to enable broader comparisons.


The state cost commission and others programs are using CO APCD data and other sources to identify and implement initiatives to reduce cost and improve the health of Coloradans. We’ve also spent the larger part of 2015 strengthening our foundation of data and analytics to produce more frequent public analysis and setting the stage to meet increasing levels of custom data and analytic requests in 2016. With more people and organizations having access to the complete picture of health care in Colorado, the possibilities for health care improvement in our state are truly endless.

About the Author: Ana English is CIVHC's President and CEO. Contact her at

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Ronni Anderson
Excellent article Ana! Great testimony to the effectiveness of CIVHC and it's ability to help start the process of pin-pointing and improving healthcare costs.

Ronni Anderson, VP of Business Development
Morgan Consulting Resources, Inc.
Scottsdale, Arizona
12/23/2015 11:30:34 AM

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