Brown researchers brief state health leaders on health care cost trends

BROWN UNIVERSITY researchers are helping health care leaders in Rhode Island pinpoint ways to cut costs. / COURTESY BROWN UNIVERSITY

PROVIDENCE – Some of Rhode Island’s top health care leaders heard from Brown University researchers last week on health care costs and cost growth across the state.

The Rhode Island Health Care Cost Trends Steering Committee, made up of hospital representatives, physicians, health insurers, state government officials, employers and consumers appointed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, sponsored a conference on May 14, when researchers shared data on curbing health care costs.

After convening last year, the committee resolved to identify ways to cut costs across the health care sector. Using a $550,000 grant from the Peterson Center on Healthcare, researchers sought to better understand how actionable data insights, analytic tools, state regulatory authority and stakeholder engagement can drive changes.

Brown’s work uses the state’s all-payer claims dataset that includes information on every health care claim paid by commercial insurers, Medicare and Medicaid between 2014 and 2017. Although data included is extensive, it does not include many self-insured employers, a gap that researchers are trying to fill.

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“This is very exciting,” Ira Wilson, research team leader and Brown School of Public Health professor, said. “For the first time, we are looking at data that reflects actual health care costs and patterns of use here in Rhode Island, across all payers. This can be a very powerful tool to help health care providers, payers and consumers identify opportunities to improve the system, reduce waste and reduce unwarranted variation in the value of the care we receive.”

R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Marie L. Ganim, who serves as co-chair and co-convener of the committee, said she hopes researchers’ work will lead to reduced health care costs across the state.

“Rhode Islanders, even when they have health insurance, can face crushing bills. Employers can’t keep up with the rising cost of insurance. We need to give them relief by addressing the underlying causes – health care prices and use,” Ganim said.

Researchers plan on addressing low-value health care, among other topics, in future committee meetings. They are currently examining 16 types of low-value care in Rhode Island and will report back on which types offer the most promise for reducing waste.