Report: Varying treatment prices raise health care costs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Health care costs in Utah rose as hospitals and doctors increased rates and charged wildly different amounts for common procedures, according to a Utah Foundation report.

The nonpartisan group’s report was compiled in response to a survey last year that found Utah residents were concerned about health care costs more than any other issue, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday.

In one instance, the report found that a blood vessel repair surgery in Ogden, Utah, cost more than double the price a Murray, Utah, hospital charged.

Higher costs of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, over-treatment and several other factors are considered key drivers behind the increased health care prices.

Utah residents have historically spent less on health care than residents in other states. That’s in part due to a “strong health profile” among its residents, according to the report.

But recent polls show Americans across the country are now increasingly concerned with health care prices.

A recent University of Utah study found most patients in Utah valued affordable out-of-pocket costs above a host of other aspects in their health care, including provider expertise and getting timely appointments. The same poll found 88 percent of Utah residents strongly or somewhat agree that the cost of U.S. health care is too high.

In addition, Utah hospitals have the shortest average length of stay in the nation, which helps drive costs down. Doctor visits in the state are, on average, cheaper than elsewhere in the U.S. — though foundation researchers said that “might be in part because Utah is among the states with the highest percentage of adults who did not see a general doctor in 2014.”

There are, however, less positive factors pushing down Utah residents’ health spending. The state has fewer hospital beds per 1,000 people than all but one other U.S. state. It also has among the lowest Medicare and Medicaid enrollment numbers in the country, and an uninsured rate of 8.8 percent, well above the national average.

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