MADISON – Wisconsin takes collaborative approach to health costs

A massive statewide database of health care claims years in the making is set to go public in 2014, allowing Wisconsin residents to do comparison shopping before they choose a doctor or schedule surgery.

The Wisconsin Health Information Organization has accumulated 250 million claims for care provided to 3.7 million Wisconsin residents over the past several years. Every current Medicaid claim is in the database, along with 70 percent of commercial claims, with Medicare information hopefully being added soon.

The database will operate as a complement to the health care exchanges set to open for enrollment in October under the Affordable Care Act. The goal of having government, employers and insurance companies share their claims data was to increase transparency, control costs and help consumers make more informed decisions.

It was a tough sell at first, but that kind of collaborative thinking has put Wisconsin ahead of many other states in trying to control health care costs and improve quality, said Dr. John Toussaint, the first organizer of the database and a former health care executive with Appleton-based ThedaCare.

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