Jun 21, 2021 - Health

Health care spending is picking up

Data: Altarum Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Altarum Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic forced hospitals and patients to delay care — everything from heart procedures and knee replacement surgeries to lab tests and X-rays — but people have been flocking back to their doctors as coronavirus cases wane.

Why it matters: A return to normal levels of care means health care spending is back on the rise, which will continue to strain governmental budgets and people's paychecks.

By the numbers: Annualized health care spending hit almost $4 trillion this past April, up 32.4% from April 2020, according to an analysis of federal data from the Altarum think tank.

  • The pandemic hit health care spending the hardest between March and June of last year, with the nadir coming in April.

Between the lines: The increase in spending reflects both the mass cancellations of services last spring, but also the sizable surge of people coming back.

  • Dental care spending increased the most year over year in April (140%). Spending on hospital services and physician visits also jumped almost 60% each.
  • The country's persistently high health care prices also played a role in the increased spending, but health care prices have not been rising as fast as other areas of the economy because the federal government and private insurers set rates in advance, according to Altarum.

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