5 Things We’re Reading on Health Care Costs

Read how big trends in health care are driving up costs, how relatively inexpensive but common services add up to huge amounts of wasteful spending, and more in our roundup of insights from other sources.

Consolidation and freestanding ERs and prescription drugs, oh my

Dr. Paul Hain, a regional president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, breaks down three big health care cost drivers and shares some possible ways to control them in a piece for the Dallas Business Journal. Read it here.

Low-cost, low-value procedures are low-hanging fruit in search for savings

Some health care services deliver little to no value to patients, yet happen staggeringly often. And most — 93 percent — of those low-value services cost $538 or less, according to a new analysis of Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance claims. The low-cost, low-value services result in $381 million in unnecessary spending each year. Read more about the study in Modern Healthcare.

When Americans make more, they spend more

Out-of-pocket health care spending seems to vary in tandem with income, suggesting Americans spend more on care in the months and years their incomes rise. That’s one finding from a JP Morgan Chase Institute analysis of Chase customer data. Read coverage from Business Insider for more.

An argument for spending more on marketing the health insurance exchanges

The federal government is sharply reducing what it spends on marketing and enrollment assistance for the health insurance exchanges this year, saying the spending in previous years was not an efficient use of resources. A Health Affairs blog post counters that more funding would create a healthier risk pool — lowering premiums and overall costs to the government. Read the full post for more.

Who owns your doctor’s practice? The answer matters for your bill

A research brief published in Health Services Research found Medicare spending per beneficiary is higher for physician practices owned by hospitals than it is for independent practices. Since “physician practices are increasingly being purchased by hospitals” it “may result in higher total spending on care,” the brief concludes. Read it here.

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