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Health care spending is up. Way up. That’s because prices are up — not because we’re using more health care, according to newly published data from the Health Care Cost Institute.

Expand chart
Reproduced from HCCI 2016 Health Care Cost And Utilization Report Chart: Axios Visuals

The numbers that matter: Health care spending grew by 4.5% from 2015 to 2016, yet utilization was steady — or, in some cases, actually declined — during the same period. According to HCCI’s analysis, which is limited to employer-sponsored coverage, the increase in spending was driven by steep increases in prices.

  • Spending on prescription drugs is up 27% since 2012, driven by a roughly 25% jump in prices.
  • Prices for emergency-room care rose by about 30% over the same period.

Context: Other studies have come to similar conclusions. But one person’s prices are another person’s salary, and that’s why it’s so difficult to find any sort of political mechanism to keep price increases in check.

  • Conservatives want to bring down prices by making consumers responsible for more of their own health care costs, hoping to create something that looks more like a traditional consumer-goods market. But recent research suggests that approach doesn’t work.
  • Liberals tend to favor more direct government price controls — but some providers are already seeking higher and higher prices from commercial insurance to make up for the lower payments they receive from government programs.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
4 hours ago - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

Trump gives Biden access to presidential intelligence briefings

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Trump White House on Tuesday gave President-elect Biden access to daily presidential intelligence briefings, a source familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has refused to share the briefs until now, as he continues to challenge the result of the election and declines to concede. The president's acquiescence comes as another sign that the transition to a Biden administration is taking place.