Consumers are continuing to pay more in out-of-pocket costs — and in some states, a lot more than others.
Out-of-pocket costs for consumers with employer-sponsored health care jumped 7 percent from 2012 to 2013, new analysis from the Health Care Cost Institute finds. On average, out-of-pocket costs rose from $662 per person annually to $707.
The increase is partly due to more people enrolling in high-deductible health plans.
Overall out-of-pocket spending per capita as a percentage of total spending increased from 14.8 percent in 2012 to 15.2 percent in 2013.
Though experts advise to shop around to combat increasing costs, the researchers cautioned that tactic is not as easy as it sounds. That’s because they found a wide variety of costs for health services they studied.
They study examined variations in costs of five services: new doctor visits, cataract removal, colonoscopies, lower leg MRIs and pregnancy ultrasounds.
Doctor visits costs had the least dramatic price variations. On average, it cost consumers $19; but in Wisconsin it cost them $35.
In fact, among the 10 states studied, the researchers found that Wisconsin consistently had the most out-of-pocket price variation.
Surgical procedures overall had the most shocking price discrepancies. For cataract removal, the national average variation was $444 in out-of-pocket costs. In Wisconsin, they varied by $989. Average spending by Wisconsin patients also varied by $214 for colonoscopies, $476 for MRIs and $160 for obstetric ultrasounds. In Georgia, the variation was $490. Arizona and Maryland had the least price variation overall.
Researchers sifted through HCCI's database on health insurance claims from four major insurers, representing about 50 million individuals. The analysis did not break down spending by the type of health plan.
Still, researchers said shopping around is necessary despite the lack of price transparency.
“Some may interpret the out-of-pocket variations as discouraging, but the results demonstrate that there are real opportunities for consumers to save on health care spending. Fortunately, new resources, including the forthcoming HCCI transparency initiative, are making it possible for consumers to find the information they need to begin shopping for health care. Hopefully, with reliable price and quality information, consumers will be able to make better decisions and save money.”