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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

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FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Cezary Kowalski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

Exclusive: Law enforcement organizations back Biden pick for assistant AG

Vanita Gupta Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.