Sept. 24—Privately insured consumers' out-of-pocket costs grew faster last year than overall healthcare spending, according to new research.

Healthcare spending among privately insured people under age 65 grew by 4 percent in 2012, according to the not-for-profit Health Care Cost Institute's (HCCI) annual report on health spending. But out-of-pocket spending rose more quickly, increasing 4.8 percent to $768 for each individual.

Out-of-pocket expenditures have grown at a faster rate than payer expenditures since 2010, according to the report. Payer expenditures declined 0.2 percentage points from 2011 to 3.8 percent in 2012, or $3,932 per capita. The biggest source of out-of-pocket and payer spending increase was from rising generic drug spending.

Growth in the category that accounted for the most healthcare spending by individuals—health professionals for procedures—slowed from 3.8 percent in 2011 to 3.1 percent in 2012. However, for the first time since the recession, the report found growth in spending on such services stemmed from higher utilization instead of rising prices.

Spending on outpatient services—the second-largest source of patient expenditures—accelerated to 5.9 percent. That growth increased outpatient procedures share of overall spending to 28 percent, while the share of spending consumed by every other category remained stable or declined.
By comparison, inpatient spending increased only 2.4 percent, down from 4 percent in 2011.

The HCCI report is the latest to chronicle an ongoing slowdown in the growth of healthcare spending to unprecedented rates. Health policy experts remain divided on the cause of the slowdown but the HCCI report credited several factors, including an increase in generic drug replacements and a shift from inpatient to outpatient care.

Publication Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013