5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

This week's roundup on health care costs includes two takes on how price increases (as opposed to how much care we use) drive spending growth. Also, how paying patients’ rent can improve health and decrease costs.

Price hikes drive growth in health care spending …

Even though Americans are using fewer health care services, total health care spending per person grew 4.6 percent in 2016, according to a new report from the Health Care Cost Institute. What’s to blame for increased spending? Price hikes, HCCI says. Access the full report here and find coverage from the Washington Post here.

…and the intensity of care is a factor, too

A recent post on the New York Times‘ Upshot blog also tackles the dynamics at work in rising health care costs. The writers likewise point to price, but they also pin some of the blame on the increasing intensity of care patients received when they went to a hospital or doctor. A recent study in JAMA, the writers note, attributes 63 percent of the growth in health care spending between 1996 and 2013 to a combination of price hikes and higher care intensity. Read the Upshot blog for more.

If it’s simple, they will come (price-shop for health care)

Rising deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs and benefit designs put people in charge of more of their health care expenses. But finding the actual prices of medical procedures and tests can be difficult. A study from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University suggests people actually will consider price when making health care choices — if the prices are simple to find and easy to read. Read the full report. (Also see the related MHCSW story “Putting a Price on Tag on Care”)

Why some hospitals are paying patients’ rent

Many homeless people are frequent fliers in hospital emergency rooms, where one night can cost thousands. To keep them out of the ER, the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago is choosing to spend $1,000 a month to support would-be patients’ rent. A pilot program showed rent support helped cut housed patients’ cost 18 percent. WBEZ details the program and others like it.

People go to the doctor on their tax refund’s dime

One week after receiving a tax refund, out-of-pocket health care spending increases 60 percent, according to data from the JPMorgan Chase Institute. This and other findings of a survey of more than 1 million checking accounts shows “people put off health care services based on their ability to pay,” according to Axios, which broke down the report’s main points.

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