Massachusetts healthcare spending rose 3.9% in 2015

Money signs.

Massachusetts continues to struggle with its attempts to keep increases in healthcare spending in check.

A new report from the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) found that total healthcare expenditures statewide were $57.2 billion in 2015, or $8,424 per person--up 3.9 percent from 2014. The CHIA benchmark was 3.6 percent.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, told WBUR-TV. “The good news is that we’re growing slower than the national average. The bad news is that we missed the cost benchmark.” The state missed the 2014 spending benchmark as well, according to WBUR.

Pharmaceutical spending has driven much of last year's growth, according to the report, with a 10.1 percent increase last year. While that's down from the 13.5 percent uptick in 2014, it still accounts for one-third of the overall spending growth. Spending by commercial payers also rose by 4.7 percent last year.

Meanwhile, cost-shifting to Massachusetts' individual consumers occurred quickly. Twenty-one percent of the state's residents were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, according to the report. The number of people enrolled in such plans increased by 14 percent between 2014 and 2015, to about 1 million statewide. Cost-sharing itself rose by 4.4 percent in 2015. Adoption of alternate payment methods, such as participation in an accountable care organization or bundled payments, shrunk slightly, dropping by 1.9 percent last year in the state.

Massachusetts is one of the most advanced states in the country in terms of healthcare finance, with clear-cut spending growth guidelines and even mandated price transparency for the benefit of consumers. But reports suggest that providers have been balking at following that particular mandate. Meanwhile, the financial dominance of the state's larger healthcare systems have been putting financial pressure on its smaller community facilities.