OPIOID SERIES:

Study: Out-of-pocket health costs rose slightly last year

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs have increased modestly over the last year, according to a new study – a sign that prices are not skyrocketing under ObamaCare as some critics had predicted. 

The total amount of money that a patient spent per visit increased 3.5 percent over the last year, according to data from a study published Health Affairs on Tuesday. That amounts to about $1 per visit, including copayments and deductibles

The study, completed by the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation, included data from about 15,000 physicians.

While the authors warned that the rising out-of-pocket costs could cause some patients to forgo care, the study shows that co-pays and deductibles did not increases as sharply as some ObamaCare critics had predicted.

Still, deductibles increased across the board for every type of physician visit – an average increase of about $8. For example, the deductible for a primary care visit increased from $14 to $20, while orthopedics increase from about $27 to $35.

It also found that primary physicians saw slightly higher rates of reimbursement compared to doctors overall.

Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, described it as a “moderate increase.” It is likely a result of the focus on preventative care under the healthcare law and of the insurers’ strategy to encourage primary care over more costly specialty care, according to the study.

Those increases in physician payments, Hempstead said, are “consistent with low overall price increases for health care services that have been reported elsewhere”

The impact on speciality care doctors can already be seen. Reimbursements for speciality care dropped substantially in 2014, the report showed.