Rising Rx, ER Prices Pushing U.S. Health Care Spending Up

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Rising Rx, ER Prices Pushing U.S. Health Care Spending Up
Rising Rx, ER Prices Pushing U.S. Health Care Spending Up

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Privately insured Americans spent nearly 5 percent more on health care last year than in 2014; this increase was significantly more than that seen in previous years and reflects higher costs for prescription drugs, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations, according to a report published Nov. 22 by the Health Care Cost Institute.

The Washington, D.C.-based group analyzed 3.7 billion insurance claims for nearly 40 million Americans covered by the insurers Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare. Patients lived in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Spending increased just 2.6 percent in 2014 and 3.0 percent the year before that. But prices for prescription medications, hospitalizations, and outpatient care rose between 3.5 and 9.0 percent in 2015. Prescription medication was the fastest growing health care expense. In 2015, spending on brand-name prescriptions increased 11.4 percent from the year before, and spending on generic drugs rose 3.3 percent. Anti-infective drugs, including hepatitis C and HIV medications, more than doubled in price from 2012 to 2015. Chemotherapy and other drugs administered by a health care practitioner increased 12.5 percent over the previous year.

The authors also found that spending among Americans younger than 65 covered by employer-sponsored insurance averaged $5,141 a person, and out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance, rose 3.0 percent, averaging $813 a person. People older than 45 spent more than $1,000 on average on out-of-pocket expenses; these expenditures were higher among women, who spent $236 more than men. On average, Texans had the highest out-of-pocket expenses -- $983 a person -- of all the areas studied. The lowest were reported in the District of Columbia and Maryland -- less than $690 a person. The steady decline in emergency department visits continued in 2015, but the cost of an emergency department visit rose 10.5 percent. The analysis also showed the average price for an acute hospital admission was $19,967 in 2015.

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