Today in Augusta, the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) unveiled the latest research publication, Healthcare Costs in Maine. The report compares prices for common medical procedures between thirty-three hospitals to expose the substantial price variation between facilities and get to the root of why Maine’s healthcare costs are among the highest in the country.
In Maine, out-of-pocket expenses for premiums and deductibles doubled between 2003 and 2013 while the median household income remained relatively stagnant. As a result, average annual healthcare spending per person reached $8,521 in 2009, with total aggregate expenditures surpassing $11 billion. In 2014, Maine ranked 11th nationally in terms of personal healthcare spending per capita.
Meanwhile, health insurance premiums (and deductibles) have risen sharply. In the individual market in Maine, average monthly premiums per person were $335.61 in 2013, 43 percent more than the national average and a 12 percent increase since 2010.
In Healthcare Costs in Maine, MHPC reveals enormous – and seemingly arbitrary – price variation in the healthcare market. For example, did you know that Mercy Hospital in Portland offers precancerous skin growth removal for an average of $117 when, less than a mile away, Maine Medical Center costs $551? Also, did you know that the most expensive hospitals in Maine are Aroostook Medical Center, Stephens Memorial Hospital and Cary Medical Center, or that the most affordable ones are York Hospital, Central Maine Medical Center and MaineGeneral Medical Center?
MHPC also found there to be virtually no relationship between costs and patient satisfaction ratings, meaning that more expensive care does not correlate with a higher-quality service.
Price discrepancies among the privately insured are a major driver of healthcare spending. To get a handle on the exploding cost of healthcare in Maine, we need to take measures to limit arbitrary price variation between hospitals to benefit the insured and uninsured alike.