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The Hill: Americans using less health care, but paying more for it

 By: Jessie Hellman

Health-care spending has increased because prices are rising, not because Americans are using more health care, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) showed that total health-care spending grew by 4.6 percent per person from 2015 to 2016 even as utilization of services remained steady, or declined in some cases.

As a result, health-care spending per person reached a new high of $5,407 in 2016.

"It is time to have a national conversation on the role of price increases in the growth of health care spending," said Niall Brennan, president of the HCCI.

"Despite the progress made in recent years on value-based care, the reality is that working Americans are using less care but paying more for it every year. Rising prices, especially for prescription drugs, surgery, and emergency department visits, have been primary drivers of faster growth in recent years."

The study focused on people under the age of 65 with employer-sponsored health insurance.

Spending on brand named prescription drugs grew by 110 percent between 2012 and 2016, but utilization dropped 38 percent.

According to the report, the average price for an emergency room visit went up 31.5 percent between 2012 and 2016, but the number of visits only increased slightly.

The average price for surgical admissions increased by 30 percent between that five-year period, but there was a 16 percent drop in utilization.

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