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Eye care costs rose just 0.3% last year

August 21, 2013
Comparison of eye care cost increases to other health professions

Comparison of eye care cost increases to other health professions

Consumer costs related to eye care increased less than costs for any other health care service or related cost during 2012.

The Eyeglasses and Eye Care Services Index, compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), increased a mere 0.3 percent during 2012. That was well under last year’s overall inflation rate of 1.7 percent and a fraction of the 3.2 percent increase posted for health care costs overall during 2012, according to BLS Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.

Virtually every year since the government first began tracking them, increases in patient charges related to eye care have trailed both the overall inflation rate and increases in charges related to most other health care services.

Prices for eyewear and professional fees for eye care increased 0.7 percent in 2011. The overall inflation rate was 3 percent that year.

In determining the nation’s rate of health care cost inflation, the BLS tracks a variety of care-related charges from hospital and nursing home services to professional fees charged by health care practitioners and the prices of health care products.

The Eyeglasses and Eye Care Services Index has traditionally risen more slowly than the BLS’ other professional health services indices. That is because, unlike other BLS professional health service indices, the Eyeglasses and Eye Care Services Index reflects both fees for professional services and the cost of related health care commodities (specifically eyeglasses and contact lenses).

Professional fees tend to rise faster than prices for health care-related commodities, according to the BLS.

In addition, eyewear, unlike many other health care commodities, is often placed “on sale” by retailers. As a result, sale pricing is often reflected in the BLS Eyeglasses and Eye Care Services Index.

The 3.2 percent increase in the overall cost of health care in 2012 (down slightly from a 3.5 percent increase in 2011) reflected a 3.7 percent increase in medical care services (which rose 3.6 percent in 2011), a 1.7 percent increase in medical care commodities (up from a 3.2 percent increase in 2011), and a 9.9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance (which decreased 6.1 percent in 2011).

Like other Consumer Price Index data, the BLS medical care indices are limited to items with an out-of-pocket expenditure. In the case of health insurance, out-of-pocket expenditures are defined to include the portions of health insurance premium amounts that are paid by consumers.

Professional service fees

The 3.7 percent increase in medical care services last year came as a result of 1.9 percent increase in professional services (which rose 2.2 percent in 2011) and a 4.6 percent increase in fees for hospital care and related services (down from the 5.3 percent increase recorded in 2011).

The 1.9 percent increase in fees for professional services during 2012 reflected a 2 percent increase in fees for physicians’ services (down from the 2.7 percent increase recorded in 2011).

It also reflected a 2.8 percent increase in fees for dental services (down from a 2.2 percent increase in 2011) and a 0.8 percent increase in fees charged by other medical professionals (which rose 1.3 percent in 2011), as well as the 0.3 percent increase in charges for eyewear and eye care.

It is important to note that eye care-related costs tend to change at various rates around the nation.

The BLS Eyeglasses and Eye Care Services Index is based on approximately 680 quotes for services provided by opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists.

It includes eye exams, dispensing of eyeglasses and contact lenses, office visits, and surgical procedures performed in a health care practice or hospital. Statistics cited are percentage increases in the indices (U.S. city averages, all urban consumers) from December 2010 to December 2011, not seasonally adjusted.

For further detail, visit http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/outside.jsp?survey=cu.

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