I spend a lot of time talking about the Massachusetts health care delivery system, mostly to researchers, legislators, employers, advocates, and the like, but rarely do I have the opportunity to speak directly with consumers.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to do so at a Health Care for All (HCFA) Consumer Health Quality meeting. This Council is comprised of volunteers that have been personally impacted by medical errors or quality deficiencies. I applaud their commitment to injecting the consumer voice and perspective into key health care policy discussions and legislative debates.
I was asked to present to the Council on the Division's work and how consumers can play a role in transforming the health care delivery system. It was a great opportunity to share some of the key findings of our Health Care Cost Trends 2010 Final Report and highlight our policy recommendations as they relate to consumers.
We engaged in a very important discussion about issues like cost, quality, wellness, and transparency. The latter topic was a strong area of interest for the attendees, as it is also for the Division. I mentioned the agency's current work on developing the all-payer claims database (APCD). While the APCD is not the solution to mitigating health care costs, we strongly believe that by offering full access to the true price of our own medical utilization – doctor visits, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests and the like – we can lift the veil that currently masks the full price tag we all pay toward health care. Accurate, detailed, transparent data should be the driver of decision-making for policymakers, employers, and consumers.
Indeed, as one of the Council members noted, consumers must have access to user-friendly data that helps identify the highest quality care at the best possible value, rather than relying on anecdotal advice from family and friends. It is also essential that we, as consumers, better understand that our personal health habits and our health service utlization patterns are directly tied to the increasing cost of medical care as well as the cost of health insurance premiums.
We need more meetings and conversations like yesterday's to take place all across Massachusetts, where we are able to directly engage consumers and employers about rising health care costs. We must also continue developing the appropriate tools and resources for consumers so that they can become more prudent purchasers of health care.