FAIR Health Delivers Keynote at Alaska State of Reform Conference
FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd was invited to Anchorage, Alaska, to deliver the lunch keynote address at the 2018 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Speaking to some 300 attendees, Ms. Gelburd revealed how claims data analysis can shed light on the Alaskan healthcare sector and the ways in which it differs from that of other states and the nation.
State of Reform, a policy-agnostic organization, hosts conferences in a number of western states. Its goal is to bridge the gap between healthcare and health policy by encouraging dialogue and fostering a sense of community among stakeholders.
Ms. Gelburd noted that FAIR Health benchmarks can help states set workers’ compensation rates and benchmarks associated with consumer protection laws, among other official uses. Healthcare system professionals can also use geographically specific claims data to inform decisions about treatment protocols, triage policies, facility expansion and other issues.
“Alaska is a unique environment,” Ms. Gelburd observed, and Alaskan healthcare trends frequently differ from national trends. FAIR Health data show that claim lines for alternative venues of care—such as telehealth, urgent care centers (UCCs) and retail clinics—are increasing nationally. Yet claim lines for telehealth actually decreased from 2016 to 2017 in Alaska. This is a surprising finding, given the state’s vast territory and telehealth’s utility in remote areas, and may have important implications for policy makers and payors.
Similar disparities were seen in graphs showing national and Alaskan claim lines related to emergency department (ED) visits. Nationally, ED-related claim lines are highest for individuals age 19-30. In Alaska, they are highest for those over age 50, with individuals over age 70 accounting for the highest percentage. Alaskan use of UCCs differs as well. Nationally, UCCs are most used by children age 0-18; in Alaska, adults age 51-60 are the highest users. Other data presented by Ms. Gelburd revealed that, in Alaska, similar diagnoses are presenting in EDs as in UCCs. That data may suggest challenges regarding consumer access to primary care providers in Alaska. A comparison of 2015 and 2017 claims data, however, showed a 20 percent average increase in the overall number of providers—likely a sign that purposeful efforts to attract providers to the state are reaping dividends.
Additional insights can be gleaned through analysis of national and Alaskan medical price indices. For example, while the Alaskan year-over-year rate of pricing increases for professional and hospital evaluation and management (E & M) codes tracked closely to national rates of increase, Alaskan values for several specialties (surgery, pathology and laboratory, and radiology) proved notably higher than national values. This may be due to state efforts to bring in specialists.
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