Record health care spending driven by rising prices, not increased services: study

Health care spending for individuals who receive employer-sponsored insurance has reached a record high, according to a study released Tuesday.

Average annual spending for people who get their health insurance through work was $5,641 in 2017, up 4.2 percent from $5,416 the previous year, the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) found in its analysis. The average includes the amount paid by workers, their employers and insurers.

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Spending on health care is increasing because of higher prices, not because people are using more services, according to the study.

The overall use of health care services declined 0.2 percent between 2013 and 2017, while spending on health care increased 16.7 percent.

"For the most part, Americans aren't using more health care services, which means we’re essentially paying more and more for the same amount of health care," said Niall Brennan, president and chief executive of HCCI.

Spending on professional services, which includes doctor office visits, grew more than any other area, increasing 13 percent between 2013 and 2017.

Inpatient spending rose 10 percent during that time period, despite a 5 percent drop in use of those services, as the price of medical and surgical admissions jumped, according to the study.

While the number of outpatient surgeries dropped by 4 percent from 2013 to 2017, spending increased 14 percent.