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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Report Compares Vermonters' Health Expenses With National Numbers

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Roman Milert
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A study conducted by the Health Care Cost Institute marks the first time the experience of private health care consumers in an individual state has been compared to national data.

A new report has been released that compares how much Vermonters with employer sponsored health care spend on their medical care compared to the national average. The study contains some encouraging news for state health care officials and it highlights some challenges for the future.  

It was conducted by the Health Care Cost Institute at the request of Vermont’s Green Mountain Care Board.

It marks the first time the experience of private health care consumers in an individual state has been compared to national data.

The Health Care Cost Institute analyzed the complete claims history of 305,000 Vermonters from 2007 to 2011.

The common thread is that everyone in the study got their insurance through their employer.

"Part of the reason why they have lower spending per person was because Vermonters spend less time in the hospital per hospital admission than the average of the population." - Health Care Cost Institute Research Director Carolina Herrera

The report found that the amount spent annually for an individual’s medical expenses was roughly 2 percent less in Vermont than the national average  – the difference was about $100 a year.

The out-of-pocket cost for the average Vermonter was 20 percent less than the national average.

"Part of the reason why they have lower spending per person was because Vermonters spend less time in the hospital per hospital admission than the average of the population,” says Caroline Herrera, director of research at the institute.

Herrera says the savings could be at risk in the future because overall health care costs in Vermont are now rising faster than the national average.

In addition, she notes a difference between the health care costs incurred by women compared to men.

“Women were paying more than men. They were paying about $669 per year and they had a higher share of cost sharing,” said Herrera. “It could be everything from the services that women use to how their health care is designed, to where they’re going to seek care.”

Dian Kahn is the Director of Analysis and Data Management at the Green Mountain Care Board. She says the report provides the Board with some critical information about Vermont’s health care system.

“It looks like Vermont is different from a national sample which shows that we have some unique characteristics in our health care system and some of the metrics from the national sample,” said Kahn.

Kahn thinks the report will give the board an opportunity to see what medical practices are working well and which ones need improvement.

“Let’s look at trends in inpatient care, or hospital related care, let’s look at what’s going on in prescription drugs, let’s look at what going on with patterns of care for people who are diagnosed with certain conditions,” said Kahn.

“This is where it gets its power, when you can take it and start creating different patterns that you had no knowledge about before about your population.”

The report also found that young working adults in Vermont spent more on health care than the national average. State officials want to study why this trend is taking place.