Fast-growing Prices Push Healthcare Spending Up 4.6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Spending on healthcare for the privately insured in the U.S. increased 4.6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2015, outpacing previous years’ growth, finds a new report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). Spending grew just 3.0{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2013 and 2.6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2014.

Prices for outpatient, inpatient, and professional care, as well as prescription drugs, increased between 3.5{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} and 9.0{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2015, a bigger hike than in the prior two years, according to the analysis. Price increases were the primary reason spending grew more quickly in 2015, and were the largest driver of spending growth throughout the four-year study period.

The study, “2015 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report,” covers the period from 2012 through 2015 and includes claims data from four national insurance companies: Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare.

“Spending grew faster than we might have expected in 2015, given the low growth of previous years,” said HCCI Senior Researcher Amanda Frost. “The combination of people using more healthcare services and faster growth in prices pushed up spending, with prices playing the biggest role.”

Spending for Americans younger than age 65 and covered by employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) increased to $5,141 per person in 2015. Out-of-pocket spending on deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance rose 3.0{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2015, an average of $813 per capita. People aged over 45 spent more than $1,000 out of pocket, and women spent $236 more out of pocket than men.

Use of outpatient care and professional services, such as doctor visits and lab tests, rose slightly in 2015. While use of generic prescriptions increased, use of brand prescriptions declined, resulting in an overall drop in the use of prescriptions. ER visits and common medical and surgical hospital admissions declined in 2015, continuing a pattern seen in previous years. The number of office visits to primary-care physicians fell each year since 2012. In contrast, office visits to specialists increased over the study period.

Spending on prescription drugs grew faster than spending on any other healthcare service. In 2015, $649 per capita was spent on brand prescriptions, an increase of 11.4{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} from the previous year, with more dollars going to hormones and anti-infective drugs, such as those used to treat hepatitis C and HIV. Spending on generic prescriptions reached $313 per person, a 3.3{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} increase from 2014.

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