Predicting that health care costs this year will rise 21.5 percent - five times the consumer price index increase - the Utah Health Care Management Foundation wants lawmakers to establish a mandated health data council.
The council would collect public health care data to help Utahns hold down costs."Traditionally, our society has relied on either the marketplace or regulation to hold costs in line while allocating resources," said Quinn G. McKay, executive director of the foundation. "At present, neither the marketplace or regulation is working effectively in the health care industry."
McKay said the coalition - recognizing the information is essential for an effective marketplace - has been pushing to establish an effective health data system that would supply information to patients, providers, payers and policy-makers so they can make informed choices, informed decisions and informed demands.
Legislation was introduced and supported by the foundation, a coalition of employers in Utah who have joined together out of mutual concern over the rapidly rising cost of health care, as well as quality and accessibility.
However the 1988 Legislature didn't establish a mandated health data system.
Last October, the Utah Hospital Association offered to voluntarily produce a report of comparative hospital costs. In February, the association's "A Guide to 1988 Hospital Charges by Illness Categories," was issued.
"Officers of the foundation laud the Utah Hospital Association for its effort to demonstrate that a voluntary system would work," McKay said. "Very competent people expended extensive time, considerable energy and expertise and should be recognized for their leadership."
But McKay says the report isn't enough.
It falls short of providing the necessary information for patients, providers, payers and policy-makers to make the informed choices necessary for an effective marketplace, he said. The voluntary effort holds little promise that it would provide data on such items as outpatient care, utilization, long-term care, physicians, health maintenance organizations, insurance premiums, etc.
The foundation board wants the governor and lawmakers to do more - much more.
"Board members will give their strong support to legislation (to be introduced in the 1990 Legislature) to establish a mandated health data council," McKay said. The board believes it's the only way to tackle the health care problems of Utah "in a comprehensive manner."
McKay said in the 33 other states where such systems are in place, providers have proven to be major users of the studies produced. Payers have data to make informed choices for an effective marketplace.
"The data helps inform and educate patients to enable them to make better health care decisions," McKay said. "Policy-makers are in a better position to make informed policies about such issues as tax exemption for hospitals."