5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

Read about the problem with air ambulance rides, the rising cost of an emergency room visit, federal efforts to rein in drug prices, and more.

$34,495 for an 18-mile ride: The problem with air ambulances

Bloomberg looks into the rising expense of air ambulance rides — the median charge to Medicare more than doubled from 2010 to 2014, from $14,000 up to $30,000. Air ambulances are considered an air carrier, which makes it difficult for states to regulate the industry. In addition, few of these companies negotiate in-network rates with insurers, which leaves patients responsible for a large chunk of the bill.

[Related from MHCSW: Air Ambulance Companies Deliver Sky-High Bills]

Why are ER visits becoming more expensive?

In 2009, the average cost of a trip to the emergency room was $125 per insured person. By 2016, it was up to $247 per person. The reason? The Houston Chronicle reports on a study finding that it’s because hospitals are coding visits at the highest level of severity possible, not because the type of visits have changed.

HHS secretary says lower drug prices coming

Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a congressional hearing that many drug companies are pondering “substantial and material decreases” in drug pricing, according to STAT News, although he did not specify which drug companies or which drugs he was referring to.

Health care prices still unclear

It’s still hard for hospitals to provide patients with a price estimate before procedures, according to a new study. Even though the industry has pushed for price transparency, researchers found no improvement between 2012 and 2016 in hospitals’ ability to provide a price estimate. Healthcare Dive has more.

[Related from MHCSW: Putting a Price Tag on Care]

Big companies look for more control over health care costs

Large corporations will spend about $738 billion on health benefits for their employees this year. According to Reuters, some companies are taking more control of managing employees’ health in an effort to curb that cost. This piece covers what Cisco, Intel, Amazon and others are trying and the challenges they face.

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