Report offers new snapshot of health care cost drivers

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The rising cost and use of brand name prescription drugs has emerged over the past two years as the one of the newest consensus drivers of health care spending in Massachusetts, according to a new analysis that found price increases, rather than increased utilization of services, as a major contributor to spending growth.

Two years ago, Freedman HealthCare did an analysis for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans reviewing 16 state reports on health care spending to identify trends within the findings.

An update to that study to be released on Tuesday found that the 10 common threads found between 2008 and 2014 to be driving health care spending growth remain unchanged. They include a gap between high and low paid providers, the volume of care delivered in high-price settings and market clout.

New themes have also emerged, according the report, including the price of popular brand name drugs, and increasing focus among policymakers on behavioral health, mixed performance against cost growth benchmarks measured since 2013 and an interest in taking policy action to address price variation among providers.

The Health Policy Commission, in its 2015 cost trends report, found that per capita drug spending in 2014 grew 13.4 percent and contributed 1.6 percentage points to the 4.8 percent growth in total health care expenditures in 2014, exceeding the cost growth benchmark.

The Massachusetts Association of Health Plans – along with Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts – plans to bring stakeholders together on Tuesday morning at the UMass Club to discuss the report and its findings.

Health Care Financing Committee Co-Chair Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, Health Policy Commission Executive Director David Seltz and Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Health Care Division Karen Tseng will participate in a panel debate, according to organizers.

Dr. John Freedman, president of Freedman Health Care, looked at eight additional reports produced by the Health Policy Commission, the Attorney General’s Office and the Center for Health Information and Analysis in 2014 and 2015 to build on its 2014 findings.

Read the full report

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service