Health spending up after years of ‘self-rationing’: report
Patients are returning to the healthcare system after several years of “selfrationing,” as reflected in a 3.2% increase in 2013 prescription-drug expenditures to $329.2 billion, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Physician office visits, hospital encounters and filled prescriptions all increased in 2013, the report said.
The primary reason for last year’s healthcare spending increase was the low number of drug-patent terminations, which contributed to a more than $4 billion increase in spending on brand-name drugs.
Nevertheless, overall health spending growth is still down. “Growth in (health) spending remains at historically low levels, despite a significant uptick last year, and continues to contribute to the bending of the healthcare cost curve,” Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said in a news release.
Price increases on protected brands accounted for $20 billion in spending growth, compared with $15.6 billion in 2012. Spending on generic drugs increased $5.8 billion and accounted for 86% of dispensed prescriptions.
Despite 2 million fewer patients admitted to the hospital through emergency rooms, more patients arrived for scheduled and non-emergency stays. Overall hospital admissions were flat.
For the first time, the majority of office visits were attributed to specialty physicians rather than primary-care doctors, according to the report. The number of physician-office visits increased 2.7%, the first increase in four years. This total reflected a 4.9% increase in the number of visits to specialists and a 0.7% decrease in visits to primary-care doctors.