Employer-sponsored insurance spending jumped 44% in last 10 years

The past decade has seen its share of fundamental shifts in healthcare—including a national economic crisis, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and concerted efforts to move toward value-based care. But a 10-year analysis from Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) and published in Health Affairs found spending under employer-sponsored insurance rose 44 percent.

“The past decade has been a transformational time in U.S. healthcare market with policy changes and innovation disrupting practice models and standards of care,” Niall Brennan, MPP, president and chief executive officer of HCCI and one of the study’s coauthors, said in a statement. “However, what is remarkable is that even within these dramatic changes, the share of spending across service areas has remained fairly consistent.”

Though discussing industry-wide trends rather than imaging-specific data, the study, published online Sept. 19, found brand-name prescription, emergency room visits and outpatient surgery accounted for 48 percent of the increase.

While utilization is declining, spending continued to increase, which the study authors found somewhat surprising considering the growing popularity of high deductible health plans. These plans accounted for 5 percent of coverage in 2007, but ballooned to 29 percent in 2016.

The researchers projected spending to continue its upward trajectory, accounting for 19.7 percent of gross domestic spending in 10 years. Private insurance plans will account for 30 percent of that total.

“Healthcare expenditures are projected to continue to rise over the next decade, but without meaningful research on the healthcare utilization and spending trends for people with employer-sponsored health insurance—the single largest block of insured people in the country, it will be difficult to develop appropriate and effective policies,” said Brennan. “There is a need for more research on the healthcare trends in this population to understand the complex systems affecting the overall rising cost of U.S. healthcare.”