As Health Care Spending Slows; Out-of-Pocket Hospital Bills on the Rise

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National health care expenditures increased just under 3 percent annually during the 4-year period, 2009 to 2013. Many attribute that slow growth to the recession. But some experts believe there are other forces at work. During this same period, out-of-pocket expenditures for inpatient care rose by about 6.5 percent annually. Deductibles have about doubled over the past decade. A study in JAMA study in JAMA found that cost-sharing for the average hospital stay was about $738 in 2009. This had increased to $1,013 by 2013. Background here and here.

Much of the money spent in health care are spent on hospital care, accounting for nearly one-third (about 30 percent). When Americans enter the hospital, they are responsible for only about 3 percent to 4 percent of the cost out-of-pocket. As patients out of pocket costs rise, they may take steps to avoid expensive hospital stays. Basically, I would argue that a significant portion of the recent slowdown in medical spending can be attributed to rising patient cost-sharing.

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