US private inpatient prices continue to rise

The cost of hospital inpatient services for privately insured individuals in the USA exceeded US$200 billion in 2018 and could hit US$350 billion by 2029, according to a United Health report ‘Confronting the high cost of hospital prices’.

The report finds that price increases are the key driver of hospital inpatient spending growth in the USA, and hospital prices are increasing faster than prices charged by physician prices.

Health care spending in the USA is expected to reach US$6 trillion by 2027, up from US$3.5 trillion in 2017, according to the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Between 2013 and 2017:

  • Hospital prices grew 4.5% a year
  • Physician prices grew 2.5% a year

The report suggests that consumers and employers could save US$250 billion between 2020 and 2029, if hospital price increases simply slowed to physician price increase levels. It argues that if price increases for all inpatient services dropped by just two percentage points per year between 2020 and 2029, hospital inpatient spending for privately insured individuals would be reduced by over US$50 billion in 2029 alone.

The ever-increasing cost of healthcare products and services is a topic of heated debate during the 2020 election cycle.

For the study, the insurer analysed inpatient claims for employer-based coverage from 2013 through 2017, adjusting for changes in intensity to compare price increases. In its calculation of inpatient spending in 2018, it analysed its claims data and national expenditure data from CMS.