Study: Idaho among nation's worst for hospital inflation

adutton@idahostatesman.comMarch 19, 2013 

Corrected rankings from America's Health Insurance Plans show the Treasure Valley had the nation's seventh-highest growth rate for inpatient prices. This story has been edited to reflect the correct information.

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 between 2008 and 2010, 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.

Idaho ranked sixth in the list of states with the highest annual inpatient hospital price inflation, with increases averaging 7.9 percent a year. The most rapid rise was in New York, where costs went up 10.5 percent. That state's Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area had the largest average annual increase among all metro areas, at 14.4 percent.

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. Luke's Health System and the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group that St. Luke's bought at the end of last year. Their lawsuit alleges the buyout violates laws that protect market competition. The FTC and Wasden's office say the buyout would raise prices for consumers. St. Luke's 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 spokeswoman 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."

The insurers' report does not provide dollar amounts, just percentage changes.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service