A couple of weeks ago four private insurers agreed to release more than 5 billion medical claims reaching back to the year 2000 so that the data can be used to help determine what’s driving increasing healthcare costs.
Prior to now, information on what drives U.S. health spending has been limited to publicly reported data available from Medicare. The problem with only examining Medicare data is that Medicare information does not reflect spending trends for the majority of the U.S. population.
This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, the huge volume of data from several different insurers should paint a fairly accurate picture of pricing in the private health insurance industry and the information can be compared to Medicare spending for apples to apples comparison. Second, because the data base is so large and several private insurers are represented the information isn’t tainted and should exclude any individual market bias.
Healthcare spending and pricing varies greatly from city to city and region to region because insurers and health systems are able to control prices when they have a strong foothold in the market. It’s also been well documented that hospital visits and access to health care services varies by region because there are differing practice standards in place.
I’m not sure what will come of the research but more data is always better than less data and more research is always better than less research. As congress grapples with a November 23rd deadline to recommend spending reductions, the research couldn’t have come at a better time.