Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Congressional Research Service Report on Heathcare

Here is one area where government data should be made WAY more accessible. American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a think tank that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. Yet, these reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained. It took over a week for me to obtain a copy of the important document which provides some excellent analysis on health reform below.

The CRS does not provide direct public access to its reports, requiring citizens to request them from their Members of Congress. Some Members, as well as several non-profit groups, have posted the reports on their web sites. I don't quite understand why these documents are so difficult for citizens to obtain. Since these documents are paid for with our tax dollars, it seems that the default access would be open. Hopefully we will see some change in policy eventually in this area.

This report is a very clear explanation of the health reform legislation and I recommend you download it. The sections on health information technology and other areas of delivery reform provide some very good analysis. From the introduction to the report:
Health care delivery reform relies on putting in place mechanisms to drive change in the systems of care. Key drivers include performance measurement and the public dissemination of performance information, comparative effectiveness research, adoption of health information technology, and, most important, alignment of payment incentives with high-quality care. Most health policy experts concede that improvements in the quality of health care will not be fully realized unless providers have financial incentives to change the way they deliver health care services. Under fee-for-service, the predominant method of payment, physicians are paid based on the volume of billable services, rather than the value or quality of care they provide. Increasingly, public and private payers are linking a portion of provider payments to their performance on a set of quality measures. Many policymakers are interested in expanding these pay-for-performance initiatives to incentivize other changes to the health care delivery system. The use of performance measures to track the quality of care is growing in both the private and public health sectors, though concerns about the development and use of such data remain. The public reporting of quality information is seen as a necessary step in helping patients make informed choices about health care services and the organizations that provide them.