2013 healthcare spending crept upwards

Study shows sample-drug adherence link
Study shows sample-drug adherence link

Americans spent about $9,255 per person on healthcare services in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services reported in an analysis published in the January issue of Health Affairs.

Researchers said the number represented an increase of 2.9% per person in 2013, compared to 2012 when spending jumped 3.4% over the year before. Researchers said prices for medical services grew slightly in 2013, accounting for the relatively sluggish growth, but for pharma marketers, the forces behind slow overall growth includes a list of factors including a slower rise in the intensity of treatments patients received and the amount of money patients have been putting towards out-of-pocket costs, such as co-pays and deductibles over a wider timeframe.

The CMS findings reinforce a point the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics made in April, which is that 2013's retail prescription spend — which CMS noted increased 2.5% in 2013, to $271.1 billion — is not a number over which drugmakers can be over-enthusiastic. This is because higher drug prices for existing medications and costly new medications helped drive the increase in prescription dollars. This is despite an increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed in 2013, since generics were able to address much of the increased demand.

Researchers also noted that the intensity of treatments and utilization are down. For example, researchers found that the intensity of services and use of these services represented just 0.1% of the annual 3.1% uptick in healthcare spending between 2009 and 2011, whereas use and intensity jumped an average of 1.8% per year between 2004 and 2008, a period that runs right up against the great recession.

Also on the slow track: use of physician and clinical services. CMS found that use rose 3.8% in 2013, compared to 2012 when use jumped 4.5% over the previous year.

Although the intensity measurements and the services numbers span pre- and post- recession periods, researchers indicate that this growth is about more than rising or falling unemployment numbers or cautious spending.

Instead, they wrote that consumers and providers are wrestling with factors as varied as a larger pool of insured patients, greater use of high deductible healthcare plans (which prompt consumers to rein in expenses), and new demands from health insurers as well as Accountable Care Organizations, which base treatment preferences on performance. Researchers said the result of all this juggling is going to be a mystery for the time being before it can be determined if the data in front of them is “the temporary aftermath of the great recession or the beginning of a new era.”

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