The National Institute of Health Care Management has a new brief out that explores the factors driving up health-care spending, trying to explain why premiums have grown by 122 percent over the past decade.
The answer, at least in recent years, can be summed up in one word: Prices. The volume of health care that Americans used actually dropped between 2009 and 2010, then grew slightly between 2010 and 2011.
The actual amount of health care we get, the trips to the doctor or visits the the MRI, has held steady or even fallen. The number of outpatient visits, for example, dropped by 4.2 percent between 2010 and 2011.
When we talk about our health spending problem, these charts suggest that it's less about the volume of health care delivered and more about the cost of each service.