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Answering Consumer Questions on Health Care Costs

Also posted on Project Health Colorado blog

Last month, Project Health Colorado, an initiative of The Colorado Trust, asked me to address a common theme raised in posts on their website about the lack of cost information given to patients before receiving health care services. John from Colorado Springs wrote, "It's completely unacceptable that we're letting our healthcare providers get away with NOT providing us with good faith estimates of what our portion of the charges will be!" And a post by Taneil from Boulder summed it up best. "For each procedure there should be sane ways to assess benefits and costs. People are totally uninformed in both areas."

So what changes need to be made so that consumers understand the cost of their health care before they buy it?

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Bundled Payments: The Process Begins with the Patient

Three national experts in bundled payment design and implementation spoke to a packed auditorium of more than 150 health care executives in Denver last week at CIVHC’s Bundled Payment Seminar to make the case that bundled payments are changing the face of health care across the country and illustrate how Colorado providers, payers and purchasers can—must—embark on this path. The consistent message from all presenters was that bundling is not just, or even first, about controlling costs. It is a critical technique for improving quality and creating a more patient-centric health care system.

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New CO APCD Release Reveals More Cost Variation

At the forefront of efforts to achieve the “holy grail” of health care cost and quality transparency, CIVHC continues to add data to and enhance public reporting based on the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (APCD). The latest APCD release added an additional 400,000 covered lives. New interactive reports give users more analysis opportunities, including “Professional Claims” and “Percent Covered Population,” as well as a new static report on facility costs and utilization rates for knee replacements. These reports provide new views into variation across Colorado’s health care landscape. What continues to strike me, as someone who loves to dig into data and find interesting “nuggets,” is the fact that regardless of the metric you choose to analyze with the APCD, there seems to be significant variation everywhere.

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Staying Hopeful About Health Reform

 Originally posted on

Will we ever be able to stop “reforming” our health care system?

I’ve been working on health policy issues for more than 20 years, and from the beginning my efforts were framed around health “reform.” Indeed, neither the problems under discussion nor the thrust of the proposed solutions has changed much over that time period. But change is hard, particularly when agents of change are ranged against deep-pocketed industries, entrenched guilds and bureaucratic inertia.

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