MNCM News

"The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." -- Sydney J. Harris

New Report Sheds Light on Health Care Cost Trends in Minnesota – MN Community Measurement’s annual health care cost report highlights slower growth trends

MN Community Measurement (MNCM), an independent nonprofit organization that empowers health care decision makers with meaningful data to drive improvement, has released its annual report on health care cost and utilization. The report highlights health care cost trends and drivers of cost growth throughout the state of Minnesota and includes data that consumers can use to compare costs of different providers.

Main Findings

Key findings of the report reveal that the average total cost of care for patients with private health insurance increased by 2.0 percent in Minnesota to $563 per patient per month. Growth in 2017 was slower than the previous two years, when the total cost of care increased by 6.1 and 5.6 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively. New this year is inclusion of hospital outpatient settings for radiology costs. Overall, imaging services in a hospital outpatient setting cost 45 percent more than the same service in a clinic or stand-alone radiology center.

Julie Sonier, president of MN Community Measurement, says, “We’re encouraged to see that the cost of health care has slowed in the last year, but we still have a big problem to solve around health care affordability. Making timely and actionable information quickly available is an important part, but only the beginning of how we need to work together to make health care more affordable for everyone.” Compared to other parts of the nation, MNCM provides one of the most robust public transparency efforts related to health care costs that consumers can use to compare providers.

Across medical groups included in the analysis, there continues to be considerable variation in total cost of care, resource use and relative pricing, and prices for specific procedures. Total cost of care ranges from $398 to $1,093 per patient per month on a risk adjusted basis. MNCM’s analysis of prices includes 118 services and procedures that were selected because they are common services and patients may have options to select the location and provider (as opposed to services provided in an emergency).

Impact of Analysis

Minnesota Health Action Group Vice President Deb Krause says, “There’s a lot riding on health care data, and historically that data has been hard to come by and difficult to use. To truly improve health care for the people who write the checks for care across the state – primarily employers and individual consumers – we need reliable, accessible and comparable data.” Krause adds, “Easy access to data can help patients make better decisions about where and when they seek care while influencing how employers construct the health benefit plans they offer to employees.”

Director of Health Care and Transportation Policy at MN Chamber of Commerce Bentley Graves says, “Timely and transparent information about health care costs and pricing is vital to the business community – both to employers and their employees. The data contained in this report provides employers with a powerful tool to constructively engage providers, insurers, brokers, and policymakers about greater accountability, affordability, and accessibility in health care. And the consumer-facing outgrowth of this report, MNHealthScores.org, gives individual employees the ability to actively participate in the management of their health as an informed consumer.”

To see the full report, visit mncm.org/cost-of-care-2018. In addition, the procedure prices and total cost of care at the medical group level can be viewed on MNCM’s consumer-focused website, MNHealthScores.org.

Data Source

The report includes data from an analysis of health care costs for Minnesotans who have private health insurance. The analysis in this report is based on the claims data for 2017 from the four health plans with the largest commercially-insured patient populations in Minnesota: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica Health Plans, and PreferredOne. The analysis includes the actual costs of 1.5 million patients and total spending of more than $8.6 billion in 2017.