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S & P’s Health Care Claims Index and the Latest Altarum Institute Reports

By May 19, 2016Commentary

Time to check in again on health spending.  The S & P Healthcare Claims Index Monthly Report looks at actual payments to providers by commercial health plans.  The Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending provides regular analysis of health spending and price trends.   (S & P Index)  (Alt. Inst. Reports)   The S & P Index analyzes data from December 2015 and looks at changes over the course of 2015.  For group plans, the overall medical spending increase was 6.5% year-over-year.  Medical services spending rose 4.3%, while drug spending rose by 15.8%, with brand-name drugs contributing 19% and generics 6.6%.  Individual health plan spending increased by 23%.  The spending growth for all commercial plans and in all categories for 2015 was an acceleration versus that in 2014.  Altarum’s reports are generally on an aggregated national per capita basis.  Through March, they show spending growth of just under 5%, which while Altarum describes it as “moderate” is more than double the current rate of GDP growth.  All categories of spending rose, with home health increasing fastest at 14.3%.  Prescription drugs also rose at a 6.4% clip, while hospital spending rose only 2.5%.  Health prices rose only 1.5%, so as been the case for some time, utilization growth is accounting for the bulk of the overall spending growing, as it rose 3.2%.  Drug prices continue to be the fastest increasing category and private plans are seeing much faster price growth in all categories than are government plans.  While these increases in health spending may appear to be “moderate” for most people they are creating increased financial pressure, as wage growth is much, much slower.

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