Ezra Klein on a new study from the Health Care Cost Institute:
Employers typically have tried to control costs by reducing the volume of care delivered, whether that means higher co-pays for doctor visits or using prevention to catch costly diseases earlier.
Those efforts, this report suggests, have succeeded: Inpatient admissions to hospitals actually declined by 0.5 percent between 2010 and 2011.
“One thing Americans should realize is they’re actually not heavier users of health care compared to Germans or Canadians,” said Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. “Utilization in the United States really isn’t that different.”
Fast growth in the price of health care, however, meant that overall spending still increased. The price of the average emergency-room visit rose by 5.4 percent over the same period, hitting $1,381 in 2011.
The cost of professional procedures, such as doctor visits, rose 3.3 percent, while prescription drugs spiked by 17.7 percent.
“We’ve done a good job cutting back on length of stay,” Newman said. “But if quantity is cut back and prices are going up, you’ll still see overall spending increase.”
Health economists say this reflects a health-care market in which employers and insurance companies have exerted little downward pressure on the cost of medical care.