US medical expenditures on the rise, except for primary care and home health

Spending on medical care in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of inflation in recent years and is notably higher than that of other developed countries. However, a new study finds that although the number of Americans using medical services was unchanged during the examined period, expenditures for most medical services increased.

Between 1996-1997 and 2011-2012, the number of Americans using medical services was unchanged in many categories of service, while expenditures for medical services went up in every category except primary care and home health, according to the study from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The study authors used nationally representative data to compare the number of individuals using a service to the number of services rendered and dollars spent in various categories of medical services. It found that total expenditures increased by 47 percent, from $246 per individual each month in 1996-1997 to $362 per individual a month in 2011-2012. The increases occurred in all medical categories except primary care and home health.

The largest increases were seen in prescribed medications, specialty physicians, visits to the emergency department and inpatient hospitalizations.

While spending went up, the number of individuals using medical services was relatively unchanged in most categories: outpatient, outpatient physician, users of prescribed medications, primary care and specialty physicians, inpatient hospitalization and emergency department. However, utilization increased in other categories: optometry, podiatry, therapy and alternative/complementary medicine. It decreased in dental and home health.

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