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Published May 09 2013

Forum editorial: Delivering health care efficiently

Data made public this week confirms what many in North Dakota’s health care sector already knew: The state is very efficient and cost-effective in delivering medical and hospital services to its residents. The Center for Medicare Services reported that North Dakota is among the bottom three (the others are Montana and Idaho) in Medicare hospital billings. The information comports with the historical experiences of major health care insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state’s largest seller of health insurance.

The study’s data was ranked by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. It showed that the costs of common procedures at Fargo’s two major hospitals not only were comparatively low but also had only modest differences in their billings. Representatives from the state’s hospitals emphasized, as they have previously, that North Dakota combines lowest costs with best results. Indeed, that model is essential to controlling health care costs nationally.

The good news in North Dakota, Montana and Idaho comes as implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act is causing consternation among insurers, providers and consumers. Uncertainty about the ultimate effects of ACA is the primary concern of large and small businesses that will be forced to provide health coverage, or, in the alternative, pay stiff fines. So even as North Dakota and a handful of other states deliver health care in a cost-effective way, thus keeping insurance rates down, the worry is the ACA mandate could cause all costs to rise.

Other analyses of the ACA’s effects suggest some consumers will pay more than they are now for health insurance, while others will pay less. But again, the uncertainty associated with full implementation is a drag on businesses that just can’t know how much employee health insurance will cost. It’s also a worry for many individuals who have no idea what insurance will cost under the new rules.

Meanwhile, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho continue to deliver the best care for a comparatively low price. It might be wise for implementers of ACA to look to the states for guidance.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.