All-payer Spending on Common Hospital-based Services in California

Med Care. 2020 Jun;58(6):534-540. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001303.


Background: Hospital-based care accounts for one third of US health spending or over $1 trillion annually, yet a detailed all-payer assessment of what services contribute to this spending is not available.

Study design: Cross-sectional and longitudinal evaluation of hospital financial statements from acute-care general hospitals in California between fiscal years 2007 and 2016. The amounts spent on 41 different revenue centers were included. The primary outcome was state-level and hospital-level spending for each revenue center including decomposing growth trends into changes in volume and prices.

Results: The analysis included 2941 annual financial statements from 331 hospitals. Between 2007 and 2016, total spending across all centers increased 66.6% from $43.7B to $72.9B. Five centers-surgery and recovery, drugs sold to patients, acute medical/surgical floor, the clinical laboratory, and emergency services-accounted for over 50% of total spending in 2016. Overall spending growths ranged from 1.1%/y (acute pediatrics) to 17.9%/y (observation). Other revenue centers with large increases in spending included emergency services (164.7%), clinics (on-site 114.5%, satellite 129.7%), anesthesia (119.6%), echocardiography (114.4%), and computed tomography (100.8%). Most services had volume growths within ±2%/y, although there were exceptions (eg, observation hours increased 10.0%/y). Prices grew fastest for echocardiograms (10.5%/y), cardiac catheterization (9.7%/y), therapeutic radiology (8.0%/y), and emergency visits (7.5%/y). In general, median prices for services in 2016 were larger than Medicare allowed amounts.

Conclusions: Overall hospital-based spending increased 66.6% between 2007 and 2016 in California, but there was wide variation in spending growth across revenue centers. Understanding this variation-including the relative contributions of volumes and prices-can guide efforts to curb excessive health care spending and optimize resource dedication to current and future patient care needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.