by Matthew Valeta, Health Policy Fellow

Being a health care consumer can feel like you have been sucked into a black hole. You can move from doctor to doctor and test to test without a clear idea of what all the tests are needed for. And you may never know the cost of any of the treatments you receive until you get your bill. In order to empower consumers, they need access to information about the cost and quality of treatment they are purchasing like they could get with any other product.

This month the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) released the All Payer Claims Database (APCD). The APCD will ultimately be an online database of claims data from commercial health plans, Medicare and Medicaid. It was created by legislation in 2010 and will serve as a data source for efforts to improve patients’ health care experience, improve health outcomes, and reduce the costs of health care. Currently the APCD only reflects data collected from private insurers but it plans to expand to include Medicare and Medicaid data by 2014.

Right now the APCD has released reports and interactive maps on:

• Total Cost of Care
• Emergency Room Claims
• Hospital Admissions
• Hospital Readmissions
• Provider Density
• High Cost Imaging
• MRI of the Knee

You can go to the APCD website and compare the data for these services across Colorado’s counties. For example, the average cost of care in Colorado in $2,576. Denver County is below the average at $2,134 but El Paso County is above the average at $2,645 as is Mesa County at $2,930.

As a consumer, the APCD can be an important tool to make sure that you get the best value out of your health care experience. Without access to information it is impossible to know if you could get better value or better quality treatment. By the end of 2013, the APCD will provide information about the cost of common procedures and ultimately it should allow consumers to compare providers on cost, utilization, and quality. The APCD will give you the information you need to shop around for the best provider for your medical needs.

The APCD will hopefully lead to lower health care costs. When consumers are empowered with the information they need to make educated decisions, providers will have to compete for your business.

Finally, the APCD can be the vehicle to broader change to health care system in Colorado. As Colorado looks at ways to both control health care spending and expand access to care, the APCD could provide information about which counties and providers are excelling.

You deserve to be able to make informed decisions about your health. The APCD will be valuable tool moving forward ensuring that Coloradans get the care that they need when they need it.

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