Blog Post

Insight: Utah Foundation’s Health Cost Series examines cost drivers

By: Utah Foundation Staff

Editor’s note: The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute occasionally publishes blogs from partners in our community. This blog features research by the Utah Foundation. The opinions and research expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position or research by the Gardner Policy Institute. We hope the information shared contributes to Utahns’ understanding of health care costs and policy, and in turn help people formulate INFORMED DECISIONS™.

In 2016, Utah Foundation’s Priorities Project found that the cost of health care was Utahns’ biggest concern. In response, Utah Foundation produced a three-part Utah Health Cost Series from December 2017 to June 2018. The series provides an analysis of the overall cost of health care spending in Utah, the cost of health insurance for Utahns, and the overall cost of Medicaid in Utah.

Utah Foundation found that Utahns spend less per capita on health care than any other state in the nation. Several factors help explain this, some of which include Utah’s demographics and health behaviors, low enrollments in Medicare and Medicaid, a small number of hospital beds, and a relatively high uninsured rate. Yet costs continue to rise. Among the main drivers of provider cost increases nationally are: the high cost of new medical devices and pharmaceuticals; overtreatment; consolidation among health care providers; and increasing administrative complexity. One of the most striking findings of the research is that hospital rates in Utah can vary significantly for the same service, by up to four times in some cases.

Meanwhile, insurance costs have been incr