Health spend­ing up af­ter years of ‘self-ra­tioning’: re­port

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - —An­dis Robeznieks

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.

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