KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Report: Health Care Costs Expected To Increase 7.5 Percent In 2013

This projection is more than three times that of the expected rates for inflation and economic growth, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Still, it's the fourth year in which the cost increase is less than 8 percent.

Reuters: Healthcare Costs To Rise 7.5 Percent In 2013: Report
The cost of healthcare services is expected to rise 7.5 percent in 2013, more than three times the projected rates for inflation and economic growth, according to an industry research report released on Thursday. But premiums for large employer-sponsored health plans could increase by only 5.5 percent as a result of company wellness programs and a growing trend toward plans that impose higher insurance costs on workers, said the report by the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC (Morgan, 5/31).

Bloomberg: Pace Of Rising Health Costs May Slow For U.S., Study Says
Cheap walk-up health clinics, lower costs for drugs and medical supplies and state laws requiring hospitals to publish prices may be helping to reduce the increase in U.S. health costs, a study found. Health-care costs are expected to rise 7.5 percent in 2013, or 5.5 percent when accounting for changes in insurance benefits, such as higher deductibles and co-payments, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in its annual report on the nation's medical cost trend. It is the fourth year in a row the annual cost increase is less than 8 percent (Wayne, 5/31).

Also in the news -

National Journal: Report: Price Variation Makes Purchase Of Health Care Confusing
A new story from Consumer Reports highlights how extreme price variation and sketchy transparency can mean that even insured patients often end up on the hook for huge, unanticipated bills. The report homes in on two big themes: The broad range of prices that various providers charge for the same procedures, even if they are all considered in the network of a particular insurer; and changes in how plans calculate "usual and customary charges" mean that out-of-network reimbursements frequently cover a much smaller percentage of costs than patients typically realize (Sanger-Katz, 5/31).

And, in a separate Consumer Reports article -

Boston Globe: Consumer Reports Score Mass. Physician Practices
Consumer Reports magazine — long seen as an authority on the performance of automobiles, appliances, and air conditioners — is now rating a service commonly used but difficult to measure: your primary care doctor. The July issue, on stands Thursday, includes a special ­insert scoring 487 Massachusetts adult and pediatric practices on how well doctors communicate with patients and specialists, whether the staff is courteous, and other measures meant to judge patients' experience (Conaboy, 5/31).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Consumer Reports Rates Mass. Doctor Groups From Patients' Perspective
For the first time in its history, Consumer Reports, the trusty rater of cars and appliances, is publishing ratings of nearly 500 primary care physician groups in Massachusetts using data from Massachusetts Health Quality Partners. The first-in-the-nation ratings, which you can find here, include 329 adult practices and 158 pediatric practices around the state and are drawn from MHQP's statewide patient experience surveys, conducted every two years since 2006 (Zimmerman, 5/31).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.