Healthcare utilization drops but healthcare costs increase. What’s up with that? That’s right, Americans used less healthcare but costs increased?

As you can imagine (or at least hope) there are groups that closely study the results of American’s consumption of healthcare and the cost of delivering that care. The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) is one of those groups. The following is a short summary of HCCI’s recent study as well as facts about healthcare. It’s very interesting and supports the ideas and actions supported by your humble author in earlier Posts.

HCCI’s annual Health Care Cost and Utilization Report analyzes health care spending and utilization from 2012 to 2016 for people up to age 65 with employer-sponsored health insurance. That means HCCI analyzed actual utilization data from employer group plans.

One of the many interesting facts identified by HCCI’s analysis is, Americans consumed (used) the same amount or less health care in 2016 than they did in 2015. However, rising prices caused overall spending in 2016 to grow faster than any time in the last five years. 

Niall Brennan, president of HCCI, states;
“It is time to have a national conversation on the role of price increases in the growth of health care spending,” said Niall Brennan, MPP, president of HCCI. “Despite the progress made in recent years on value-based care, the reality is that working Americans are using less care but paying more for it every year. Rising prices, especially for prescription drugs, surgery, and emergency department visits, have been primary drivers of faster growth in recent years.” (HCCI Press release)

Here are some of HCCI’s facts & conclusions:

  • While the number of emergency room visits rose just slightly, the average price for an emergency room visit grew steadily over the five-year study for a 31.5 percent cumulative increase, driving the increase in outpatient spending.
  • The average price of surgery went up as well, pushing up spending for both inpatient and outpatient care.
  • The average price for surgical admissions increased by nearly $10,000 or 30 percent over the five-year study period, despite a -16 percent cumulative decline in utilization.
  • The price for outpatient surgery rose more than 19 percent.
  • Over the five-year study period, prescription drug spending had cumulative growth of 27 percent, despite a flat or decreasing trend in generic drug prices and despite a decline in utilization of brand prescription drugs.
    *The increased spending was driven by double-digit price increases from 2012 to 2016 for brand prescription drugs.
  • Total spending on primary care office visits fell by almost 6 percent over five years due to a decline in the number of visits.
    *This was offset by a 31 percent spending increase on office visits to specialists and a 23 percent increase in visits for preventive care, changes that could be partly attributable to changes in billing practices or in the way people seek care.

“While consumers, especially those with employer-sponsored insurance, may not feel the direct impact of these charges via out of pocket payments, they ultimately pay through increased premiums and decreased benefits,” added Mr. Brennan.

Are these conclusions realistic – Yes!

  • Since 2011, HCCI has tracked, independently analyzed, and reported health care spending, utilization, and prices each year in its Health Care Cost and Utilization Report using de-identified claims data of people up to age 65 with employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • For this report, HCCI analyzed data from roughly 4 billion claims of nearly 40 million individuals. Claims data came from four of the largest health insurance providers in the U.S. representing about 26 percent of the employer-sponsored insured population. 

Isn’t it interesting that as utilization of healthcare services goes down the overall cost of health care goes up for both employees and employers?

Makes one ask: Why is it that when the Government gets involved costs go up and its the average tax-paying premium-paying citizen who bares the brunt of that cost increase.

  • It happened with Medicare and Medicaid.
  • It happens with military costs.
  • It happens with roads, bridges and all other infra-structure costs.

Why would we be surprised that the Government mandated Affordable Care Act would increase the costs on that which it sought and still alleges it controls?

It almost makes me want to re-print a couple dozen of our previous posts that describe how to lower cost while increasing coverage and access to healthcare. But, I won’t.

We want to thank the Health Care Cost Institute for its reporting and for the effort it makes to gather the information it reports. Americans would be doomed were it not for organizations that watch over our nation to report back to us.
Lord knows we can’t depend on the Press  any more, to do that! Sorry, that’s the cynic in me!

In the weeks to come, as we look at various efforts to create alternatives to the ACA, we will include additional statistics concerning healthcare utilization and spending. The statistics and utilization figures we have captured for years could help build solutions that lower costs to employers, employees and members while increasing benefits and access.

It isn’t that hard!

Let me know if the stats above shock you or infuriate you. I look forward to seeing what comes out of the many States that are trying to overcome the ACA. We’re in this together so let’s shout out when we see something that makes sense.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

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