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If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s that U.S. health care costs are clearly out of control. Between 1996 and 2013, health care spending increased nearly $1 trillion to a total $2.1 trillion. A short five years later, in 2018, Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care, a total larger than the GDPs of the United Kingdom, Spain, and Canada combined, landing the U.S. with the highest health spending in the world.

While both the U.S. population and health care utilization are increasing, more than 50 percent of the growth in spending can be attributed to increases in service prices. The cost of patient care nearly doubled from 1996 to 2013, with hospital care being a major contributor to that increase.

One problem is that patients and the employers who provide coverage to the vast majority of insured individuals have little insight into hospital costs until after care has been received. Not at the time of care, and certainly not when selecting a provider or site of care.

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