The largest health plan trade group wants to form a new agency to “compare the cost and effectiveness of medical treatments as part of a series of recommendations to reduce health care costs.” (California HealthLine from CongressDaily) At first blush that’s pretty similar to what the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality is doing today.
AHRQ’s mandate is to “Build the evidence base for what works and doesn’t work in healthcare and develop the information, tools, and strategies that decisionmakers can use to make good decisions and provide high-quality healthcare based on evidence.” AHIP is looking to go further, to include cost in the equation.
Cost is something AHRQ and it’s antecedent, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, carefully avoided. And at the time, for good reason. AHCPR was almost killed off in the late nineties by forces ranging from budget hawks to back surgeons angry at AHCPR’s findings to politicians furious over AHCPR’s “role” in the Clinton health plan process.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed (who says nothing good ever comes out of Washington?) and the Agency was kept alive, although with a different mandate.
Now private insurers are looking to Washington for help managing health care costs. This is not your usual political hot potato, but rather one with a temperature akin to the surface of the sun.
What does this mean for you?
AHIP’s request for Federal involvement in health care cost issues is both an indicator of how desperate private insurers are and a recognition by those insurers that government has a key role to play.