Senate Finance Committee Conducts Health Care Transparency Hearing

Jun 19, 2013

Castlight CEO Giovanni Colella, M.D. Shares Policy Prescriptions to Increase Transparency into Cost and Quality of Health Care

WASHINGTON – June 19, 2013 – Yesterday, leading health care experts and U.S. senators explored the high and variable cost of health care in America, as part of a special Senate Committee on Finance hearing on health care transparency.

During “High Prices, Low Transparency: The Bitter Pill of Health Care Costs,” Castlight Health co-founder and CEO, Giovanni Colella, M.D., along with Steven Brill, J.D.; Suzanne Delbanco, Ph.D; and Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D. debated policy solutions for improving transparency into the cost and quality of health care.

“Without transparency in health care, consumers ultimately end up paying more and receiving worse care, and we as a country end up spending more on health care than is necessary,” noted Dr. Colella. “This is not a new problem, but it’s one that is growing in significance as the U.S. works to decrease the rate of health care cost growth, and as households find themselves paying more out of pocket for their own health care costs. Something has to change.”

During the hearing, Steven Brill shared his perspective on the complexities plaguing the U.S. health care system.

“This is no one’s idea of a functioning marketplace,” said Brill. “In a functioning marketplace prices are based on something that is explainable – whether it’s the cost of producing the product, the laws of supply and demand, or the quality of the product. In this marketplace, no one can explain a hospital’s charge of $77 for a box of gauze pads, or $18 for a diabetes test strip that can be bought on Amazon for about 50 cents.”

Suzanne Delbanco of the Catalyst for Payment Reform cited the opportunity to improve health care with insight into cost and data.

“Transparency on health care prices increases the likelihood that consumers will choose health care providers that deliver effective and cost-efficient care. Price transparency can also be an important tool for health care providers,” Delbanco said. “Recent studies suggest that price transparency can help providers evaluate and identify the most appropriate and affordable care for their patients. Furthermore, employers and health plans cannot implement some of the more promising benefit and network designs without it.”

Dr. Colella also shared policy proposals that could increase transparency in the health care market: “CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid] is sitting on a goldmine of data. Unlocking this information will make it easier for people to assess the cost and quality of health care,” said Dr. Colella.

“We should require all payers to make claims data publically available, with privacy protections, for utilization and quality measurement,” Dr. Colella continued. “By giving employers access to their claims – their receipts – they can partner with organizations like Castlight Health to create innovative benefits programs that help reduce costs, while improving the quality of care.”

Dr. Colella’s list of policy prescriptions for increasing health care transparency included:

1 Requiring all payers to make claims data publically available, with privacy protections, for utilization and quality measurement;
2 Necessitating that the Department of Health and Human Services continue its recent momentum and release Medicare data on in-patient and out-patient procedures to the public;
3 Having the federal government relax data restrictions on access to Medicare quality data, without compromising safeguards to protect privacy;
4 Enabling purchasers of health care, such as major employers, to have unfettered access to claims data to enable price and quality transparency initiatives; and
5 Passing pro-transparency measures, such as those in Massachusetts, by Congress or other states to prevent providers from restricting access to data.

The full testimony from Dr. Colella and replay of the hearing is available on the United States Senate Committee on Finance’s website.

About Castlight Health

Castlight Health enables employers, their employees, and health plans to take control of health care costs and improve care. Named #1 on The Wall Street Journal’s list of “The Top 50 Venture-Backed Companies” for 2011 and one of Dow Jones’ 50 Most Investment-Worthy Technology Start-Ups, Castlight Health helps the country’s self-insured employers and health plans empower consumers to shop for health care. Castlight Health is headquartered in San Francisco and backed by prominent investors including Allen & Company, Cleveland Clinic, Maverick Capital, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Oak Investment Partners, Redmile Group, T. Rowe Price, U.S. Venture Partners, Venrock, Wellcome Trust and two unnamed mutual funds. For more information, please visit our web site at or call (415) 829-1400.

Press Contact:

Joan Levy

Blanc & Otus for Castlight Health

[email protected]


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