September 12, 2018

State health care spending rose 1.6% last year

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The Boston building where the Center for Health Information and Analysis is based. CHIA reported that health care spending in Massachusetts rose by just 1.6 percent last year.

Health care spending in Massachusetts rose 1.6 percent to $61.1 billion in 2017, increasing at the slowest rate tracked since the passage of a 2012 health care cost control law.

The Center for Health Information and Analysis, in its annual report on the performance of the state's health care system, logged a $1.3 billion increase in total health care expenditures from 2016 to 2017, representing a rate of growth more moderate than the 3 percent recorded the previous year.

The report also flagged continuing concerns about the affordability of care, despite a nation-leading health insurance coverage rate of 96.3 percent.

Commercial health care spending increased by 3.1 percent to $22.8 billion and Medicare spending increased by 1.9 percent to $17 billion, while MassHealth spending dropped slightly, according to CHIA -- a 0.2 percent decline to $17.2 billion. The report attributes the drop in part to a 2.4 percent decrease in MassHealth enrollment.

The 2012 cost containment law, which established CHIA, also created an annual benchmark against which medical spending growth is measured. Last year's 1.6 percent growth rate falls well below the 2017 benchmark of 3.6 percent.

Ray Campbell, the CHIA executive director, told the Health Policy Commission on Wednesday that cost growth had been "decelerating" over the past two years, and called the 1.6 percent number for 2017 "particularly notable" and "well below the benchmark."

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