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Did You Know?

Look for Your Community on the Nation’s First-Ever Local Health System Scorecard
Comparative data on access, prevention, costs and health outcomes are now available for 306 local areas nationwide, representing all U.S. residents, in The Commonwealth Fund’s first-ever scorecard on local health system performance. An interactive map allows users to compare performance among communities, and gives health system leaders a tool to establish priorities for improvement and set achievement targets. The scorecard shows that access, quality, costs, and health outcomes all vary significantly from one local community to another, often with a two- to threefold variation in key indicators between leaders and laggards.

U.S. Health Care Costs More Because… The Prices Are Higher 
Nearly every medical procedure, device or prescription costs more—often much more—in the United States than in other developed nations, according to a new survey by the International Federation of Health Plans. Washington Post health blogger Ezra Klein commented that higher prices in the U.S. can’t be explained away as a natural byproduct of higher demand for goods and services. In fact, Americans don’t go to the doctor more often, we aren’t sicker, and we don’t stay longer in the hospital as compared with our contemporaries in Canada or Europe. Prices are simply higher.

Health Exchange Governing Boards Will Be Heavy on Insurers 
Insurers will get to fill as many as half the seats on each state’s health exchange governing board, say the final rules for the marketplaces, issued recently by the Department of Health and Human Services. At least one seat must be reserved for a consumer representative.

Paying Patients Who Opt for Less Expensive Care Pays
Since 2010, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been offering members in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Indiana a small cash incentive ($50 to $200) for voluntarily choosing less expensive facilities than the ones recommended by their doctors for tests or elective procedures. The City of Manchester, N.H., signed on as the first employer participant in the effort and to date 476 employees or beneficiaries have taken advantage of the voluntary program, netting a savings of about $250,000 for the city even after factoring in the cost of the rewards. Over 50,000 employees from companies in three states now participate. The "SmartShopper" program is designed to steer those individuals toward less expensive facilities for about 40 selected procedures with high cost variances including one, hernia repair, which can range from $4,026 to $7,498 depending on the facility involved. The program is still in the pilot stage and follow-up studies are planned to assess the effort’s impact on quality of care.

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