1. Some data generated by the Maryland Health Care Commission (HCC) is now available for download by the public at www.mhcc. state.md.us/public_use_files/public_use.htm. Data choices include information on ambulatory surgery, hospice and several aspects of long term care. The user must complete a request form describing the intended use of the data before downloading the materials.
2. In January, Roscoe M. Moore, Jr. D.V.M., Ph.D., D.Sc. joined the HCC as a Commissioner from Montgomery County. Commissioner Moore worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Public Health Service. He is currently the President of PH RockWood Corporation, a group that targets the control of infectious diseases worldwide.
3. In January, the HCC released its "State Health Care Expenditure Report Experience from 2003 Report". Maryland's health care spending totaled $26.5 billion, up $2.1 billion from 2002. While the 8% growth in health care spending in 2003 is higher than the 4% increase in personal income, such growth is, nevertheless, 3% lower than the growth rate for health care spending in 2002. Spending on hospital inpatient services accounted for 24% of health care spending, while physician services accounted for 19%. Private third party and out-of-pocket spending grew about 8%, as did Medicare expenditures. Enrollment in private health plans was stable from 2002-2003. Medicaid spending grew by 15% in 2003, driven by the conversion of existing programs, like the Maryland Pharmacy Assistance Program, into Medicaid.
4. In its "Interim Report on the Study of the Affordability of Health Insurance in Maryland," the HCC recommends the following to control health care spending in Maryland: (1) the inclusion of the cost of high volume hospital medical procedures in the HCC's Maryland Hospital Performance Guide; (2) the establishment of emergency room hotlines by hospitals and insurance carriers, which hotlines would allow consumers to determine if the ER is the appropriate setting for their medical condition; (3) the implementation of incentives by insurers to encourage physicians to educate their patients as to how to manage their illnesses; (4) the redesign of the HCC's Small Employer Website to include educational materials regarding the intricacies of health insurance; and (5) the inclusion of more prescription drugs on the Maryland Office of the Attorney General's Website that currently lists the prices various pharmacies charge for 25 of the most commonly prescribed drugs.