Group health care spending in the United States accelerated last year, according to a new analysis.
For those covered by employer plans, spending on health care services increased by 4.6 percent to $4,547 per plan enrollee. By contrast, in 2010, costs rose an average of 3.8 percent, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, an independent Washington-based health research organization.
"While it's hard to know whether this means spending levels are going to continue rising, it is clearly a signal that we have to pay attention to," HCCI Governing Board Chairman Martin Gaynor said in a statement Sept. 24.
• By region, health care spending was highest in the Northeast, averaging $4,659 per capita in 2011, up 4.4 percent from 2010; and lowest in the West, averaging $4,358, up 3.7 percent.
• Health care spending varied hugely by age. For example, health care spending per for individuals from age 55 through 64 averaged $8,776 last year, up 3.8 percent from 2010, while spending for those age 18 and under averaged $2,347 per capita, an increase of 7.7 percent over 2010.
• The primary driver of increased health care spending was higher prices charged by providers rather than an increase in utilization. For example, prices for services delivered on an inpatient basis jumped 5.5 percent, but utilization of services fell by 0.6 percent.
The analysis is based on health insurance claims filed by 40 million people with employment-based coverage.