New government health care spending survey data suggest that the country may be holding down hospitalization costs but spending more on home health care.
Researchers at the federal Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have included data on hospitalization costs, home health care costs, office-based medical provider costs, and other health care costs in a report on Medical Expenditure Panel Survey costs for 2011.
The researchers looked at costs for people in the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population who had various types of health care costs in 2011.
A comparison with the report for 2010 shows overall mean expense per person with health care expenses increased 4.5 percent in 2011, to $4,839.
The median expense rose 5.9 percent, to $1,239. That figure means that half of the people who had health care expenses in 2011 had expenses below $1,239, and half had expenses above that level.
The mean is so much higher than the median because many people used some medical services in 2011 and emerged with relatively small bills, but some people with serious conditions had very large bills.
The totals include amounts that patients paid with private insurance or public insurance as well as amounts they paid out of their own pockets.
The mean amount of hospitalization expense for people with hospital bills actually fell 0.5 percent in 2011, to $17,710, even as the median rose 4.5 percent, to $9,869.
The mean home health care bill jumped 35 percent, to $7,939, as the median climbed 40 percent, even though the percentage of noninstitutionalized people with home health care bills fell to 2.1 percent, from 2.2 percent.