KTVA: Murkowski looks to lower health care costs

Sen. Lisa Murkowski took part in a hearing on Capitol Hill aimed at lowering health care costs by making information on cost and quality more available and transparent.

Most people don’t know they can shop around for health care, but there are differences in both quality and cost.

One witness at the hearing was Bill Kampine who is the co-founder and Senior VP of Client Analytics at the Healthcare Bluebook -- a company that publishes cost and quality information about medical procedures. He says consistent education is the key to empowering the public.

“If consumers know they need to shop, and they know that prices vary, and they know quality varies, then they’ll shop and they’ll get better value,” Kampine said.

Murkowski says having that information available to people is what will allow them to choose the best options for themselves and their families, but there are barriers.

“The difficulty of predicting services during an episode of care, carrying insurance benefit structures, bills from multiple providers and the like,” said Murkowski.

And Alaska faces an even more unique challenge: lack of competition.

“If you are looking to go to the hospital in Bethel, there’s no point in shopping around because you have one and the same is true in just about every community outside Anchorage, Alaska,” Murkowski continued.

Witnesses at the hearing included Leah Binder, President & CEO of the Leapfrog Group, which is a nonprofit in Washington, DC improving safety and quality in hospitals.

When Murkowski asked how Congress could contribute to improving transparency, Binder answered:

“I think the role of government is to ensure that the data and information is scientifically sound, reliable and available. And then make that available to public entities like all of us, and then we have incentive to reach out to the public and engage them.”

In 2017, Anchorage passed the Health Care Transparency Ordinance, which requires health care facilities to provide cost estimates when patients ask for it within 10 business days. It doesn’t apply to emergency services and allows the actual charges to be higher than the estimates.

By:  Angela Krenzien
Source: KTVA