Feb 14, 2020 - Health

Health care prices still rising faster than use of services

Surgeons work in a dimly lit operating room.
Photo: Ricky Carioti/ The Washington Post via Getty Images

Employers, workers and families continued to spend a lot more on health care in 2018, but that wasn't because people used more services, according to the latest annual spending report from the Health Care Cost Institute, which analyzes commercial health insurance claims.

The bottom line: Higher prices remain the main culprit for exploding spending among those with private health insurance.

By the numbers: Annual per-person spending among the commercially insured, after accounting for inflation and drug rebates that help reduce premiums, grew by an average of 3.8% between 2014 and 2018, according to HCCI.

  • Three-quarters of that rise was attributed to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and others raising prices.

The intrigue: Two small pieces of data stick out within the report.

  • The average out-of-pocket price for emergency room visits jumped 37%, from $368 in 2014 to $503 in 2018 — a reflection of surprise billing tactics.
  • The average price of drugs administered in doctors' clinics soared 73% from 2014 to 2018. These infusion medicines overseen by doctors are driving up drug spending by a lot, and they don't usually come with rebates.

Go deeper: HCCI is getting a new health insurance partner to submit data

Go deeper