State creates health care database to track costs

Gov. Jack Markell proudly displays Senate Bill 238, which creates a claims database designed to help measure spending and trends related to care, after signing the legislation on Thursday. (Submitted photo/Office of Gov. Jack Markell)

Gov. Jack Markell proudly displays Senate Bill 238, which creates a claims database designed to help measure spending and trends related to care, after signing the legislation on Thursday. (Submitted photo/Office of Gov. Jack Markell)

DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell signed into law Thursday a bill intended to more accurately track health care costs with the goal of developing a more efficient health care system.

The legislation, Senate Bill 238, creates a claims database designed to help measure spending and trends related to care. Supporters are hopeful it will promote additional transparency in health care and can be used to combat rising expenses.

“What we’re doing, and we’ve been engaged in this effort now for several years, is really trying to move away from the … fee-for-service system, where oftentimes providers get paid not necessarily on whether somebody is well but really based on the number of procedures you get,” Gov. Markell said. “And also when you combine that with third-party pay, it makes it really difficult to control a cost because frankly people don’t feel the pain in their own pocketbook for health care expenses, unlike virtually every other category of goods and services.”

Health care costs nationwide, such as with Medicaid and state employee care, are increasing, putting additional pressure on the state’s budget. Some high-ranking state officials have pushed to transition Delaware’s health care system to a model where cost is contingent on quality of care.

Gov. Markell, whose term expires in January, has said the next governor will have to confront the problem, and Thursday he called health care costs the “single most complicated public policy challenge” facing decision-makers.

Delawareans 25 percent more for health care than the national average, according to the governor’s office.

Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, the main sponsor of the legislation, said the measure took five years to get passed. It was approved unanimously by lawmakers this year.

The Delaware Health Care Claims Database will be operated by the Delaware Health Information Network, which already tracks many patients and providers.

With the resource, officials can analyze prices and trends from the data to determine possible ways to limit increasing expenses, something Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Rita Landgraf called a “valuable tool.”

“It’s one thing to be first, which is great, but it’s more important than ever before to keep the progress,” Gov. Markell said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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