A state report on healthcare shows Utah residents are paying more for hospital care despite managed-care trends aimed at reducing costs.
According to the 1994 Utah hospital data report, hospitals are performing fewer inpatient surgeries and more outpatient care. Hospital stays are shorter, and more people are enrolling in HMOs and other cost-controlled health plans.
But residents still paid $1.3 billion annually for healthcare, the data said. The average hospitalization charge increased 3% between 1993 and 1994, to $6,008 from $5,813 .
State healthcare officials say managed care has not reversed the rising cost of healthcare, but it has slowed the rate of increase.
"Cost will continue to rise because the population is getting older, access to medical care is being expanded to previously uncovered individuals and technology continues to advance," said Denise Love, director of data analysis for the Utah Department of Health, which will publish a final draft of the study within the next two months.
The report was based on data taken from 213,421 inpatient discharges from the state's 54 hospitals. The data revealed that Utah's hospitalization rates continue to be 15% below the national average, partly because the state's population is younger and healthier.
Two other factors also influence a lower patient census in the state's hospitals: the large number of maternity-and childbirth-related conditions, which usually involve shorter stays than other types of procedures, and an increase in managed-care players, especially along the Wasatch Front.
Some 57% of Utah's population, or 1.1 million people, was enrolled in a managed-care health plan in 1995. The average annual growth of managed-care enrollment was 20% since 1992.
But the concentration is more evident along the Wasatch Front than in rural areas. Managed care paid for 27% of all urban hospitalizations.
The increasing presence of managed care has not only resulted in fewer inpatient surgeries, the report said, but also has shortened hospital stays by more than half a day, from 5.04 days in 1992 to 4.3 days in 1994.
According to the report, the rate of Caesarean child birth continues to decline, but women in rural areas or on Medicaid have significantly higher Caesarean rates than patients in urban areas.
Conversely, uninsured women forced to pay out of pocket for childbirth were significantly less likely to have a Caesarean section than all other maternity patients over the past three years, the data show.
Maternity and childbirth conditions resulted in 36% of all hospitalizations, while accounting for 13% of all hospital charges, the report said.
Meanwhile, surgeries or other procedures accounted for 26% of all hospitalizations yet were responsible for 50% of all charges in 1994.
About 2,500 babies were born prematurely, and 10,000 newborns had significant medical problems. Total hospital charges for the 906 extremely premature babies were $46 million, or $50,991 per patient-87 times higher than a normal newborn birth.