Urgent Care Center Growth in Claim Lines More Than Seven Times That of Emergency Rooms from 2007 to 2016
Doctors’ Charges for In-Hospital Patient Visits Increased 28 Percent over Five Years
FAIR Health Announces New Healthcare Indicators and Medical Price Index Reports
NEW YORK, NY—March 21, 2018—From 2007 to 2016, private insurance claim lines for services rendered in urgent care centers grew 1,725 percent—a growth rate more than seven times that of emergency room claim lines (229 percent) in the same period, according to an analysis of places of service in the new FH Healthcare Indicators™. FAIR Health, a national, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information, unveiled this report, along with the FH Medical Price Index™, in a just published white paper. Both reports are based on FAIR Health’s database of over 25 billion privately billed healthcare claims—the largest such repository in the country.
FH Healthcare Indicators: Focus on Places of Service
FH Healthcare Indicators reveals trends and patterns in the places where patients receive healthcare. These have seen dramatic changes in recent years as alternative places of service—including urgent care centers, retail clinics, telehealth and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs)—have become more widespread. Based on the study results, different places of service are associated with different diagnoses. For example, in retail clinics and urgent care centers in 2016, acute respiratory infections, such as the common cold, were the number one diagnostic category—but in telehealth, mental health-related diagnoses were number one.
Places of service differ in cost. In 2016, the median charge for a 30-minute new patient office visit ranged from $294 in an office to $242 in an urgent care center to $109 in a retail clinic.
FH Medical Price Index: A New View of Medical Pricing
The FH Medical Price Index reports shifts in costs and permits useful comparisons among medical prices in six procedure categories:
- Professional E&M (excluding E&Ms performed in a hospital setting);
- Hospital E&M (excluding E&Ms performed in a professional setting, such as typical office visits);
- Medicine (excluding E&Ms);
- Surgery (procedures for which the physician would bill);
- Pathology and laboratory (technical and professional components, e.g., both equipment and physician services); and
- Radiology (technical and professional components).
The current categories emphasize professional fees and related costs and do not reflect facility fees.
The average median billed charge for professional evaluation and management services (E&Ms) provided in a hospital setting increased 28 percent in five years, from an index value of 1.00 in May 2012 to 1.28 in May 2016, according to the FH Medical Price Index. The index also shows that five-year growth for allowed amounts for professional E&Ms in a hospital setting—reflecting the maximum amount an insurer will pay for a service—was slightly lower: 26 percent, from 1.00 in May 2012 to 1.26 in May 2017.
By contrast, the index for professional billed charges for surgery shows growth of only three percent in the five-year period, and the surgery allowed amount index shows growth of two percent. The relative flatness of the surgery indices compared to those for professional E&Ms in a hospital setting may be due to a number of factors, including hospitals buying physician practices, new technologies that lower prices and hospital surgeons needing to keep their prices competitive with ASCs.
“FH Healthcare Indicators and the FH Medical Price Index bring a level of clarity to industry changes and medical costs not previously available,” said FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd. “In a time when healthcare spending accounts for almost 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, and the healthcare ecosystem is undergoing rapid evolution, we hope that these new tools will inform decision making by all healthcare stakeholders, including payors, providers, government officials, policy makers and others.”
As part of its mission, FAIR Health will update and reissue FH Healthcare Indicators and the FH Medical Price Index annually. In addition, FAIR Health makes available customized indicators and indices that offer specific data subsets (e.g., based on clinical category, geographic region or time period) of particular interest to stakeholders. Custom indicators and indices can be created to clients’ specifications.
Register here for a webcast entitled, “FH Healthcare Indicators and FH Medical Price Index: Providing Clarity in a Rapidly Changing Environment,” from 2 to 3 pm ET on March 22.
For the complete white paper, click here.