The report found the biggest spending increases in the Northeast, up 4.3 percent and—surprisingly—among children under 18, up 4.5 percent nationally. That compares with a 3.1 percent jump in spending on 55-to-64-year-olds. While spending grew fastest among pediatric patients, the report found medical care for older patients costs more in total dollars—averaging $8,327 a year—than for those under 18, at $2,123.
A future report will probe the reasons for the growth in pediatric spending. Possibilities could include big expenses for premature babies, the rising incidence of obesity and related diseases, or an increasing demand for mental health and behavioral services.
It could also reflect families’ increasing struggle to pay their share of medical costs by forgoing or delaying medical visits for their children, says Irwin Redlener, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and president of the Children’s Health Fund, a nonprofit that provides medical care to underserved children.
“Even families with employer-based insurance are seeing their costs going up, but not their salaries,” says Redlener. So they may be “saving where they can” and skipping preventive care, such as vaccinations, and treatments for chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes.
Overall, during the period analyzed, prices charged nationally grew the most for emergency room visits, up 11 percent, surgery that did not involve a hospital stay, up 8.9 percent, and mental health and substance abuse services, up 8.6 percent.
The price per hospital admission rose an average of 5.1 percent, hitting $14,662. Surgical admissions had the highest overall price tag, at an average of $27,100, representing a 6.4 percent increase from 2010.
Spending by insurers and policyholders on medical care rose 3.3 percent per person from 2009 to 2010, about twice the 1.6 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index.
This story was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.