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November 12, 2018 Health Care

Study: Greater Hartford healthcare prices on par with national average

Bill Johnson, Senior Researcher, Health Care Cost Institute
Matt Pilon

The Northeast is known as a high-cost healthcare region, so it may surprise some to learn that Hartford metro area healthcare prices are exactly on par with the national average.

That's according to a new analysis by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), which used an expansive data set of 1.78 billion claims shared with it by Aetna, Humana and United Healthcare, to analyze healthcare billings in 112 metro areas.

The analysis is specific to patients with employer-sponsored health insurance, and doesn't include Medicare, Medicaid or self-insured plans.

The Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit analyzed prices for hundreds of common billing codes that accounted for more than 60 percent of spending and around 80 percent of services in the U.S., and compared individual metro areas to nationwide averages. The report does not disclose actual prices for the many services analyzed, but compares metros with each other and the national average.

HCCI researchers found price variation across metro areas, including some in the same state.

For example, while healthcare prices in the 54-town Hartford-East Hartford-West Hartford metro area — which includes Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and others — were found to be at the national average, the New Haven-Milford metro area, which includes Yale New Haven Hospital, was 7 percent above the national average. Meanwhile, prices in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area were 3 percent higher than average, according to HCCI.

While average might sound pretty good, one piece of context is important to keep in mind, said Bill Johnson, a HCCI senior researcher.

“2016 prices were dramatically higher almost across the board,” compared to 2012, Johnson said.

So while Hartford prices were at the national average, putting it on par with cities like Denver, Houston and Philadelphia, that national average rose significantly over the five-year period analyzed.

In Hartford, prices rose 15 percent over five years, keeping pace with the national average. In New Haven, where prices in 2016 were more on par with Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, prices rose 17 percent over that period.

The highest increase of any metro area over that period was New York City, at 22 percent.

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