Increase In Health Care Costs Slowing, But Mass. Still Among Most Expensive States For Care

The cost of going to the doctor or hospital is not rising as fast in Massachusetts as it has in the past, but new data released by the state shows per person health care spending here is still among the highest in the country.

The state's Health Policy Commission, in a new analysis released Wednesday, found that between 2009 and 2014 the state's annual rate of health care spending growth was the fourth lowest in the country, at 2.3 percent. That's a shift from between 2004 and 2009, when the state had the sixth highest rate of spending growth, at 6 percent.

However, annual per person health care spending in 2014 reached $10,559 — 31 percent higher than the national average and second highest in the nation, behind Alaska.

Stuart Altman, chair of the state's Health Policy Commission, says trimming health expenses is a balancing act.

"We don’t want to see our health care system deteriorate, so we want to keep pressure on it to grow more slowly, but we wanted to make sure that it grows in areas where it should grow."

For example, Altman says, home health care spending is up, but that may be because patients are spending less time in higher costs settings, like hospitals.

With reporting by WBUR's Martha Bebinger


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