What in the world is this chart supposed to tell us? As hard as it is to believe, a lot of work actually went into this. But it was created with free data provided by the state and free software (R) built by millions of man hours by smart (and generous) developers.
In a nutshell, this bizarre chart can save you money. Possibly a lot of money.
For the sake of this post, we’ve captured Commercial HMO health claims for two southern New Hampshire hospitals that performed a leg joint MRI. The graphic is a violin chart. It accounts for the density, or the frequency of paid claims at a given price. The width at each point in a violin plot represents the frequency at which a price was paid for the MRI. Both hospitals have several wide areas. But what does this mean? Because the public data files does not disclose the insurance plans associated with each claim, we need to visualize the most likely scenarios. In the case of Hospital A, the widest concentration of all claims is concentrated just above the $1,000 mark. Who is the largest insurer in the state? That may be an indication…
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The most helpful observation that can be drawn from this is that Hospital A appears to have lower prices, regardless of the insurance plan. (The hospital is Elliot – I could not resist giving them a plug given I was born there in 1872).
A rising percentage of consumers are either choosing high deductible health plans or they are being forced on them by virtue of affordability reasons. The reality is consumers are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that they need to become better healthcare consumers. So if you end up needing an elective procedure, being more educated about what the likely costs will be can only help. We also include federally issued quality metrics on our site as well. Cost and quality in healthcare don’t correlate. It is a proven fact. So do your homework.
While NH public policy is years ahead of other states, consumers need to lobby elected officials to have more information disclosed in the public claims file. If we had insight with respect to the underlying insurance plans, consumers could make much more informed decisions. We don’t pretend to have a silver bullet to address rising health costs, but we sure are making an effort to advance the consumer cause. Incidentally, we’ve reached out to a couple of the largest insurers in the state. Hopefully they will return our calls someday. In the meantime the public can pull a nice move in the name of the little guy by advocating for more disclosure.
We will be incorporating these density charts into our cost tool soon. If you have a high deductible plan, please notify your HR rep about our site. We are rolling out the platform to small and medium sized companies in NH. Self-funded companies can inquire about our custom consulting services as well.