Rising patient health insurance costs may lead to fewer doctor visits

December 1, 2011

An annual report on consumer expenditures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that a trend begun more than a decade ago is continuing: an increase in average annual consumer expenditures for healthcare.

An annual report on consumer expenditures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that a trend begun more than a decade ago is continuing: an increase in average annual consumer expenditures for healthcare.

A rise in overall healthcare spending, from $2,976 in 2008 to $3,157 in 2010, was driven by an 10.8% increase in consumer health insurance spending over the period, although the increase from 2009 to 2010 was a modest 2.6%. Yet spending for medical services, which includes physician visits, fell 1.9% between 2009 and 2010, the report shows, suggesting that consumers are compensating for higher insurance costs by cutting back on care.

Between 2001 and 2011, workers have seen an increase of 131% in their contributions to employer-sponsored health insurance premiums and employers have had a 113% increase in premium costs, which they increasingly are shifting to employees. For example, the percentage of covered workers enrolled in a high-deductible health plan with a savings option rose from 8% in 2009 to 17% in 2011, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. Consumer Expenditures-2010. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm. Accessed November 16, 2011.

Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. Employer Health Benefits: 2011 Summary of Findings. http:ehbs.kff.org/pdf/8226.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2011.