An updated version of the Hospital Cost Tool (HCT 2.0), a dashboard created through a partnership between Mathematica, Rice University’s Baker Institute, and the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), is now available, with new data that provide a more granular look at factors behind increasing hospital prices. The HCT dashboard seeks to provide state policymakers and researchers with analytical insights into (1) how much hospitals spend on patient care services and (2) how such costs relate to the hospital charges (or list prices) and actual prices paid by health plans. Mathematica led the dashboard design, development, and data validation for this update.
The updated tool provides analyses from almost 5,000 hospitals from 2020 and 2021 and includes new metrics on staffing cost data, hospital-level COVID-19 Provider Relief Funds, and visualizations of operating profit margins. Refinements to the tool that will help its functionality include improved accuracy in excluding outliers and reporting errors; calculating net charity care, including charity care grants; and assigning appropriate Medicare costs for organ acquisition. This will enable state regulators, employers, providers, and researchers to analyze hospital costs with more substantive visualizations of key metrics, such as hospital revenue, net income, profit margins, cost-to-charge ratio, and payer mixes.
“Hospital prices and margins rose to the top of the health care policy agenda as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted historical utilization patterns and increased operating costs,” said Sule Gerovich, a senior fellow at Mathematica. “Having a comprehensive view of revenue, costs, and margins will be important for policy makers and purchasers to assess how price increases relate to the rising costs of providing services at hospitals.”
The improvements provide a thorough look at the problem from different angles. For example, states can now use the tool to see how much the contracted labor for patient care has affected hospital operating costs, or how much COVID-19 Provider Relief Funds helped to maintain hospital margins during the pandemic.
“Since the tool’s initial release in the spring, state officials, employers, and other health care payers have used the analyses to expand their understanding of hospital costs and profits, which in turn informs policy directions and reimbursement negotiations,” said Maureen Hensley-Quinn, senior director of NASHP. “Now, with two more years of information and expanded metrics, purchasers of care can better analyze cost trends.”
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For over 35 years, the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) has been a nonpartisan organization committed to developing and advancing state health policy innovations and solutions. NASHP provides a unique forum for the productive exchange of strategies across state government, including the executive and legislative branches, to improve the health and well-being of all people across every state.