UnitedHealthcare’s decision to stop providing claims data to the Health Care Cost Institute for research is forcing the not-for-profit research institute to evaluate whether it will be able to continue to share data beyond its existing trove that runs through calendar year 2017.
HCCI still has de-identified claims data from all four of its carrier partners—including United, Aetna, Humana and Kaiser Permanente—through calendar year 2017 that can be used through 2022, but the loss of UnitedHealthcare’s 2018 data and beyond presents the challenge of how and even whether the organization will be able to use the data it would continue to receive from its other partners.
In the coming weeks, HCCI will refresh its resources with 2017 data from carrier partners, as it does annually, the institute’s CEO Niall Brennan said.
“But this time next year there is not going to be a 2018 update,” he said. “We won’t have the UnitedHealthcare data and that’s going to fundamentally affect the structure and integrity of the dataset.”
Until now, part of HCCI’s process has involved blending the data so no one could identify a specific payer’s negotiated prices, Brennan said. With a big chunk of data missing in the future, there’s the concern that some people could make inferences about United’s prices, he said.
“So we’re going to be extremely cautious about how we approach the 2018 data refresh,” Brennan said.
One thing is certain: HCCI will approve up to 10 new external research projects using United data between now and June 30. The 10 projects are in addition to any approved under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Data for Action program. All new and existing HCCI research partners will have the option to continue to access the combined dataset until Dec. 31, 2022.
L.D. Platt, a spokesman for UnitedHealth Group, declined to share the company’s rationale for pulling out of HCCI’s data sharing collaborative. He said in a statement that the company continues to expand its partnerships with leading organizations and experts to conduct healthcare research to advance the triple aim.
“We appreciate the partnership with the Health Care Cost Institute over the past seven years and its contributions to healthcare research,” he said.
Platt cited other existing research partnerships that will continue. The company provided a grant to Northwestern University to support a 2018 study into cardiovascular events among insured adults with Type 2 diabetes. He also cited a number of existing research partnerships through OptumLabs, which was co-founded by UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and Mayo Clinic.
Formed in 2011, HCCI has released dozens of reports and interactive tools using information from its database, which currently represents nearly 50 million covered lives annually, including data from employer-sponsored plans, Medicare Advantage and the individual market.
Axios, which first reported UnitedHealthcare’s decision to stop providing data to HCCI, wrote that Humana has also said it will stop providing data next year. Humana representatives did not return requests for comment. Representatives with Aetna also did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Kaiser Permanente spokesman Ted Carr wrote in a statement that the company remains committed to supporting HCCI’s mission of providing a better understanding of what drives increasing healthcare costs.
“We’re confident their work will continue to contribute to policies that increase health care quality and affordability,” he said.
As of today, Brennan said the three remaining payers continue to supply data to HCCI. He said HCCI is in talks with other carriers to potentially share data and hopes to announce new payer partners this year.
“We’re very much looking forward to that,” he said.