The Health Care Cost Transparency Board (HCCTB) began examining hospital costs and prices at its latest meeting. The HCCTB’s consultant presented information on how Washington hospitals compare to all similarly sized hospitals in the nation on price and cost per discharge and identified those that are high-cost and high-price “outliers” compared to national medians. At the meeting, WSHA voiced concerns in the methodology and that the consultant is failing to adjust for some fairly basic and important factors.
According to the consultant, these outliers included UW Medical Center, Harborview, Seattle Children’s, Evergreen Monroe, Confluence Central Washington, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Swedish Edmonds, Peacehealth St. Joseph’s, Providence St. Peter, Tacoma General and more. The consultant plans to dig deeper in the future to examine any explanations for the differences.
During public comment, Albert Froling, WSHA Technical Product Manager, challenged the framework for the consultant’s analysis. Froling said it was critical to account for differences in case mix and costs due to area wage rates when making comparisons between hospitals. One noteworthy contrast is that the consultants are using the consumer price index (CPI) to represent increased costs instead of actual health care labor costs increases. Nurse labor costs are strikingly higher than the CPI. Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, CNO for the Providence Swedish Central Service Area, helped illustrate Froling’s point by explaining how differences in patient populations and complexity of care practices can result in higher costs when compared to similarly sized hospitals.
You can view the consultant’s presentation here on pdf page 37. WSHA is continuing to do its own analysis on Washington hospitals and is in conversation with staff about returning before the Board to answer their questions on WSHA’s data presentation given in July. (Katerina LaMarche)