WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Emergency department spending is increasing as a share of total U.S. health care spending, according to a study published online Oct. 27 in PLOS ONE.

Kirstin Woody Scott, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the National Emergency Department Sample (2006 to 2016) to measure U.S. health care spending for emergency department care.

The researchers found that overall emergency department spending was $79.2 billion in 2006, which grew to $136.6 billion in 2016, representing a population-adjusted annualized rate of change of 4.4 percent versus a 1.4 percent increase for total health care spending during the same period. The percentage of U.S. health spending attributable to the emergency department increased from 3.9 percent in 2006 to 5.0 percent in 2016. Private and public payers accounted for nearly equal parts of emergency department spending in 2016 (49.3 and 46.9 percent, respectively), with 3.9 percent accounted for by out-of-pocket spending. The majority of emergency department spending came from females (versus males) and treat-and-release patients (versus hospitalized), while those ages 20 to 44 years accounted for a plurality of emergency department spending. The highest levels of emergency department spending occurred for road injuries, falls, and urinary diseases, which accounted for 14.1 percent of total emergency department spending in 2016. Spending per visit also increased over time from $660.0 to $943.2 (annualized rate of 3.4 percent).

“Understanding which diseases are driving this spending is helpful for informing value-based reforms that can impact overall health care costs,” the authors write.

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