Feb 14, 2020 - Health

Health care prices still rising faster than use of services

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

How doctors have shaped the fight around surprise medical bills

Doctors' extensive lobbying on surprise medical bills is partly to blame for Congress' inaction on the issue, reports Kaiser Health News.

Why it matters: "As Congress begins its 2020 legislative session, there is evidence the doctors' message has been received: The bills with the most momentum are making more and more concessions to physicians."

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health

Medicare Advantage still leaves big out-of-pocket bills

Photo: John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Seniors who have supplemental coverage for vision, dental and hearing benefits still pay a lot out of pocket for those services, according to a study published in Health Affairs this week.

By the numbers: Medicare beneficiaries with coverage overall still had out-of-pocket expenses that made up 70% of their dental spending, 62% of vision spending and 79% of hearing spending, per data taken from the 2016 Cost Supplement to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - Health

Americans are visiting primary care doctors less often

Adults in the U.S. are visiting primary care doctors less often, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which could foreshadow worse health outcomes and higher costs.

By the numbers: The study, which focused on adults enrolled with a large commercial insurer, found that, between 2008 and 2016, visits to primary care physicians declined by 24.2%, and nearly half of adults didn't visit one in any given year by the end of the time frame.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - Health