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Inside Olympia — Health Care Cost Transparency Board

What will it take to get rising health care costs under control? “Bending the cost curve” is the goal of the state’s Health Care Cost Transparency Board. Host Austin Jenkins discusses the work of the board with Sue Birch, who is director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, and Eileen Cody, a member of the board who was a long-time state legislator focused on health care issues.

The cost of healthcare has been rising faster than inflation. That trend is putting healthcare further out of reach for people, resulting in delayed care. Six in 10 Washingtonians report having difficulty paying medical expenses.

In 2020, the State Legislature created the Health Care Cost Transparency board. Its job is to analyze health care expenditures, identify trends and come up with strategies to bend the cost curve. The goal is 2.8% annual growth by 2026 compared to the more than 5% that has been the norm.

After three years of research, the board is now preparing to identify and recommend solutions to the Legislature. This could include caps on price growth, limits on facility fees, and new oversight of mergers and acquisitions.

Topics discussed during the interview: The cost increase benchmarks set by the board, whether they’re realistic and whether they have binding authority; the impact of health care consolidation and mergers on costs; prescription drug costs; executive compensation at nonprofit health care organizations; the old days of hospital cost-setting in Washington state; the relatively flat growth in Medicare expenses, tied to the advent of Medicare Advantage plans; and more.

Find out more about the state’s Health Care Cost Transparency Board, and its efforts to control the rising costs of health care, this week on Inside Olympia.