Washington launches all-payer claims database, Washington HealthCareCompare

On Friday, Washington launched its new all-payer claims database, Washington HealthCareCompare (WAHCC).  It is a rocky roll out for the website that aims at making health care decisions more transparent for Washingtonians, which is today down for maintenance. When up and running, the site will aggregate health care claims information of over 4 million Washington residents to present informative cost comparisons for consumers, as well as statistical reports and data access for health care industry insiders.

In a press release, Governor Inslee praised the site’s benefits to Washington health care consumers.

“Health care can be an enormous expense for many families, and giving people a way to compare the prices and quality will help people be better informed and prepared about their options,”

The database is the result of legislation proposed by Inslee and passed by the legislature  by agreement in 2015. Since then, the state has teamed up with Center for Health Systems Effectiveness at Oregon Health & Science University to collect the information, manage the data, and launch the website.

Database information comprises claims data from about 30 commercial health care payers, the Medicaid program, including its five managed care plans, and Medicare Advantage, the HMO plan options for Medicare members and includes:

  • Covered medical services claims
  • Cost data, including billed, allowed and paid
  • Pharmacy claims
  • Member eligibility and enrollment data
  • Provider data
  • Results from the Statewide Common Measure Set
  • Historical claims data since 2013

WAHCC will add data on dental services, workers’ compensation and Medicare services claims later this year.

In the mean time, WAHCC is one of only 6 all-payer claims databases in the country usable by the public. Washington consumers can search the user-friendly public-facing website for information on costs of office visits, or inpatient versus outpatient procedures. The database arrives at the estimates by analyzing the health care claims data it collects and using statistical methods to create cost estimates for procedures in Washington. The consumer is presented the average cost for the amount one would expect to pay for a particular medical service or procedure.

In addition to the outward, consumer-facing site, a variety of professional data sets are available to health care professionals, organizations, and researchers. Paid products include custom and standard reports, data extracts (machine-readable data files), and an analytic enclave (a secure, cloud-based analytics environment offering access to the full WA-APCD database through a customized suite of tools).

In a statement about the roll-out, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler pointed to transparency as critical in holding down health care costs.

“The biggest factor driving up premiums is medical trend, and now, with access to the All Payers Claims Database, we’ll have a clear view into what’s really driving these costs. The timing is critical, as premiums continue to rise and many consumers are hit with surprise medical bills, too. In our ongoing effort to end this unfair practice, we’ll now have actual pricing data to help us reach agreement and end this practice once and for all.”