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New Charts Track Growth in U.S. Health Care Prices, Draw Comparisons to Other Countries

Two new chart collections from the Kaiser Family Foundation combine original analysis with a synthesis of existing data to examine trends in health care prices and utilization and compare health spending in the United States with that of other wealthy countries.

How have health care prices grown in the U.S. over time? This chart collection explores price increases in private insurance for common services over time and finds significant geographic variation in prices. For example, the average price of a full knee replacement for those in large employer plans increased from $19,595 in 2003 to $34,063 in 2016, growth of 74% compared to a 28% increase in general inflation. The average price of a knee replacement in New York City is more than twice the price of the same procedure in the Louisville, Kentucky area. Prices paid by private insurance for inpatient hospital care are substantially higher than those paid by Medicare and Medicaid, with the gap growing over time.

How do health care prices and use in the U.S. compare to other countries? This chart collection illustrates that higher prices – more so than utilization – explain the United States’ high health spending relative to other high-income countries.

The U.S. has higher prices for most health care services and prescription drugs, according to available internationally comparable data. Meanwhile, utilization of several services, including physician consultations and hospital stays, is lower than in many comparable countries. Use of some services, such as C-sections and knee replacements, is higher in the U.S. than in similar countries.

Despite having fewer office visits and shorter average hospital stays, the U.S. overall spends twice as much per person on healthcare than do comparable countries.

The charts were released as part of a Kaiser Family Foundation/Peterson Center on Healthcare forum on health care prices in Washington. The forum included experts in health care economics, delivery, and policy discussing the state of U.S. health spending, as well as potential strategies for addressing high prices.

Archived video of the event is available on the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, a partnership between the Peterson Center on Healthcare and KFF that monitors the U.S. health system’s performance on key quality and cost measures.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Headquarters: 2400 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.