One of the mandates in the Massachusetts universal health care law is the creation of a health care quality and cost council repsonsible for disseminating information about quality and cost so as to promote better decisions on the part of health care consumers.

The Council’s director, Kathy London, blogged today at CommonHealth about the Council’s survey of Massachusetts consumers undertaken as part of the planning for its consumer information website design.  Her post concludes:

In addition to creating the forum for information, we will need to undertake an ongoing education campaign to help consumers learn to take an active role in seeking quality and cost data to inform their health care decision making. While the website will establish a viable hub of information for consumers, true success for the Council will be marked when consumers actively use this information to make decisions, and health care providers focus their considerable talents on providing the highest quality care at an affordable price.

As my old mechanic used to say, "Hope burns eternal." 

As Kathy acknowledges, more than a website is needed in order to create (a) sufficient transparency around health care services cost and quality and (b) sufficient incentives for providers to become cost-conscious. 

On the transparency front: however much consumers clamor for more information, the fact remains that most consumers are not really able to evaluate the data.  On the cost front: insurance industry representation on the Council will presumably nudge things along; the consumer-directed market is not mature enough to do so on its own.

David Harlow