The Bush Transparency in Healthcare

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  • 08/22/2006

The President went to Miinnesota to sign an executive order that will require federal agencies to ” compile information about the quality and price of care they pay for and share that information with their customers and each other. ”

In a statement made before the signing, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, “It’s just the American way. We clip coupons. We check for bargain flights on the Web. We carefully research major purchases. But when it comes to health care, we lack the tools to compare either quality or the costs.”

Some might think the comparision facile. And to be sure, comparing the price of hip replacements is a bit different than comparing the price of flights to Florida. But, as the part D experience shows, it’s a start. And the Bush administration knows that price is not everything. Which is why, the prices will include all services requires for treatment — doctor services, drugs, rehab, etc — for treatment. Efforts are being made to organize comparisons around INTEGRATED care for disease or condition as well as prevention of illness or recurrence. Quality standards would have to adjust accordingly. As Alez Azar, the HHS Assistant Sec who is the point person on this initiative has noted, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has ongoing efforts to measure quality and data collection efforts that private plans can already tap into or emulate as a platform. CMS has already provided a lot of information on prices and process measures that people can use to make comparative decisions. It just posted price information for 61 procedures in outpatient centers. ( And this in initiative bolstered by the Bush exec order will roll out transparency efforts in six regions around the country.

Of course, there are many private quality initiatives. Aetna just announced it would post price data on common services and procedures. CMPI’s own board member, Susan Horn is a pioneer in the effort to integrate the continual measurement of quality into integrated care management. Go to for more info.

But the first step is to get the data systems up and running, online and as convenient to use as cellphones or ATMS. (Which means the same information has to be available in real time in California as it does in Maine.)

Linking payment to value and then to price…that’s something the market can and must do.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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