The Boise-Nampa metro area had the third-highest growth rate in hospital inpatient prices in the country between 2008 and 2010, according to a new insurance-industry report.
Prices for the Treasure Valley's privately insured population under age 65 rose an average of 11.3 percent per year during the two-year period, according to calculations by America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association.
The national average annual increase was 8.2 percent. The insurers' group said more complex and more intense treatments were to blame for between 16 and 23 percent of the national rise.
The report said health care consolidation is a significant driver of the rising cost of hospital care.
"When hospitals consolidate, either merging with other hospitals or buying up physician practices, they have greater negotiating strength and competition is limited," the insurer group said in a news release. "The result is higher prices for services, higher costs for patients, and often no improvement in the quality of care delivered."
Consolidation has been an issue lately in the Treasure Valley. The Federal Trade Commission and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are suing St. Lukes Health System and the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group that St. Lukes bought at the end of last year. Their lawsuit alleges the buyout violates laws that protect market competition.
The FTC and Wasdens office say the buyout would raise prices for consumers. St. Lukes maintains that its goal in buying Saltzer is to ultimately lower costs by creating more efficiencies.
In response to the insurers' report, Ken Dey, spokesman for St. Luke's Health System, told the Idaho Statesman that despite the rising prices, Idahoans "still have some of the lowest prices in the country."
Saint Alphonsus Health System spokewoman Elizabeth Duncan said Saint Alphonsus has been working to bring down overall health care costs, such as by using electronic health records and "keeping health care close to home, thus reducing the ancillary costs many patients must absorb."
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448