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Aiming to Clear the Smokescreen Clouding U.S. Healthcare Pricing

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Screenshot from The Source (http://competitivehealthcare.org/)

Aiming to clear the smokescreen clouding U.S. healthcare pricing, UC Hastings’ Jaime S. King and Anne Marie Helm launched a new grant-funded website in June — The Source for Competitive Healthcare — to cover news and analysis about healthcare costs and competition.

King, executive editor, and Helm, managing editor, designed The Source (http://competitivehealthcare.org/) to be “a one-stop shop, whether you’re a journalist, lawyer, physician or policy person, or just someone interested in the issues; the idea is it’s all there.”

King began to see the need for such a website two years ago while helping UC San Francisco researchers look into why price transparency in healthcare seems to be an oxymoron.

“People would tell them, ‘I’m prohibited by our contract from giving you that pricing information,’ or ‘This is a trade secret and I can’t answer that question,’” said King, also associate director of Source sponsor, the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy.

She witnessed healthcare researchers, health economists, and lawyers unable to grasp the issues or mount a legal challenge to stonewalling, because they didn’t know what their colleagues in other disciplines knew. King sensed a unique niche for an information source that she, with a law degree and a Harvard University PhD in health policy and ethics, might be uniquely qualified to help fill.

King and Helm, former law school classmates at Emory University, plan to gather in one place the resources needed to address the barriers to healthcare price transparency. Even more importantly, they want to blow up the silos trapping and dividing the lawyers, physicians, health services researchers, journalists, and health economics and policy experts examining healthcare costs.

To do that, they’ll aggregate relevant up-to-date news and academic articles, policy papers, litigation documents, and legislative and regulatory materials, and equally as important, analyze many of them.

King will oversee all Source efforts and write analyses of health policy articles. Helm, a senior fellow at the consortium who spent eight years litigating at firms in New York City and Washington, DC, will manage day-to-day Source activities, and also track and analyze specific court cases.

Helm also plans to help nonlawyers by, for example, suggesting which documents from a litigation docket are the most important. “There might be a hundred documents on a particular case and you may only need five to get a robust understanding of it,” she said.

Their research assistant, Cameron Halling, is a rising 3L at UC Hastings and a budding health law enthusiast. Among other things, he has written blog posts and compiled each state’s healthcare laws and regulations for the site’s interactive map. Impressed by the site’s growing breadth of information, Halling said, “It’s bringing it all into one place and making it accessible to everyone.”

To save Source users time, King and Helm will offer a monthly hit parade, must-read articles and reports they believe break new ground. “We’re trying to make the website a short cut, so you don’t have to read all the sources we do,” said Helm. For another short cut, follow the Source on Twitter via @thesourceeditor.

Down the road, The Source may host workshops or conferences, says King, but first she and Helm want to see more analysis on the site, as much as possible from guest writers. “I want the Source to bring people from different disciplines — who are thinking a lot about this problem and working on it — together to try and solve it,” said King.

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