HELENA – If Montana’s going to manage and control rising health care costs, it needs accurate information – and the way to get that information is through a statewide “all-payer” database, a Helena lawmaker told a legislative committee Wednesday.
“We all know that what we’ve got today is unsustainable,” Rep. Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, said of rising health care costs. “This bill will create transparency by creating a data pool that will enable us, as a state, to manage that system a lot better than we can do today.”
Hunter is sponsoring House Bill 498, which would authorize the health claims database and set up a nonprofit entity to oversee it.
The database – compiled from claims information provided primarily by health insurers and the state, which runs multimillion-dollar health programs – would cost $1.1 million to build and $300,000 a year to operate, he told the House Business and Labor Committee.
A dozen other states already have built such a system, a half-dozen more are developing one and another 15 are considering it, Hunter said.
The idea is to create a bank of information that businesses, health care providers, policymakers and the public can view, to identify cost trends in health care and figure out ways to address them, he said.
The House committee took no immediate action on Hunter’s bill.
Hunter said the type of questions that could be answered, with help of the database, include why a certain service costs much more or less in different areas of the state, what types of care are most effective and affordable, whether high-deductible insurance policies encourage lower usage of the system, and which business-sponsored health plans might provide better value.
Business groups, health insurers and health care providers testified in favor of HB489; no one opposed it at Wednesday’s hearing.
Hunter noted that health care spending in Montana is about $7 billion a year, or one-fifth of the economy, and has been increasing at rates twice as high as wages.
“We don’t have anything where the management information on what we’re getting and what we’re spending is in one place,” he said. “There isn’t any direct linkage between consumer behavior and cost. … This would provide information in one place.”