Tomorrow we celebrate July 4th, a tribute to our country's fight for independence. For many, watching sports is part of this celebratory weekend, as we immerse ourselves in a steady stream of accomplishments and statistics from baseball to the World Cup. We’ll know everyone’s batting average, earned run average or the distance a soccer player ran in a knockout game for a key goal. We are interested, if not obsessed, with statistics that measure performance, because sports are important to many Americans.
Ironically, we don’t apply the same scrutiny and thinking to one of the persistent, divisive and costly issues that touch virtually every American: the rising cost of health care. I’m a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, yet that groundbreaking policy is insufficient, in itself, as a mechanism to corral the rising costs of health care. Even with the Affordable Care Act, many Americans will still find health care too expensive. Part of this rests on our inability to understand the cost of health care. We don’t know what procedures cost, for example, and because there are bureaucratic disconnects between providers and insurers, the average person and business are paying for these weaknesses in the system.
Imagine trying to make a major investment after talking to a financial adviser, but you didn’t know how much you and your wife earned as a family. What if the adviser suggested cutting back on expenses? It would seem even more ludicrous if you didn’t know precisely what expenses you had and the amount you were spending. Yet, what was apparent is that you felt “short” financially at the end of the month.
I believe in the central tenets that transparency, honesty and solid facts provide for the best tools when it comes to making a decision. We can’t run away or ignore the increasing burden of health care costs. That is why I’ve sponsored a proposal, A952, that calls for the creation of an All-Payers Claim Database (APCD). The idea calls for a database that would provide crucial information that we could rely upon to help us lower costs and improve services.
According to the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, the specific value of the APCD I’m promoting includes:
- Providing consumers and employers with prices for health services;
- Facilitating quality improvements by identifying value-based spending;
- Identifying efficient providers;
- Enhancing marketing functioning and oversight;
- Sharing information for policymakers with actionable information.”
These are real, measureable and actionable items that could take us in the direction of reducing health care costs. Eleven states have already “seen the light” and implemented an APCD, with five other states developing one. It appears that 21 other states are giving the idea serious consideration. Can we do no less?
New Jersey health care costs are among the highest in the nation. We cannot improve what we cannot measure. And we surely cannot reduce health care costs without a careful and judicious assessment of what we’re paying. The lifeblood of reducing health care costs for individuals and businesses is to understand the rules of the game. And it is, in large measure, cost that dictates those rules. It’s time to use the benefits of an APCD database to lock down “real” numbers so that we can begin the discussion of reining in health care costs on a more equitable playing field.