The state of Texas has launched a public-private program intended to make healthcare pricing data widely available, to promote the use of electronic medical records and to strengthen the small-business health insurance market. The Texas Health Care System Integrity Authority, which includes consumers, employers, providers, payers and government agencies, will guide the project. The Authority will develop a network for securely exchanging electronic medical records and will also promote efforts to provide cost and quality information on physician and hospital care (including a pricing/quality data website). The group will also make recommendations on how to make health insurance affordable for small employers, an effort missing from other state initiatives focused on healthcare transparency and data sharing.
The new program comes at a time when Texas is struggling to contain mounting healthcare costs. The Texas state government is the single largest payer for healthcare services in the state. These costs rose 20 percent, or $11 billion, from the previous two-year state budget to the current budget. This initiative should provide a high-profile test for the notion that pricing and quality data transparency, linked with accurate data at the point of care, can shrink costs. Unfortunately, there's still no evidence that consumers will actually act on pricing and quality data if they have it.