Cost of providing health care for many Minnesotans declined in 2020

Two men hold doors on an ambulance.
EMT John Aldrich, left, and paramedic supervisor Brandon Trauba close the doors of an ambulance before taking a patient to the hospital near North Branch, Minn., in January 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

Before the pandemic, the annual cost of providing health care for Minnesotans with private, non-government health coverage was increasing at about 5 percent a year. Last year those costs decreased by 2.5 percent.

"It was not at all surprising to see that decline in cost because we knew that there was so much disruption and delay in care,” said Julie Sonier, president of Minnesota Community Measurement, a nonprofit that looks at costs and quality of care and began annual tracking of the cost of care in 2014. “It was a little surprising to me to see how much some of these services dropped.”

Sonier added that the data released Tuesday is an early indicator of how the pandemic affected health care delivery in terms of cost.

While overall the measure was down last year, pharmacy costs went up more than 11 percent.

Sonier said hospitals saw the largest declines, particularly in their outpatient departments that perform surgeries delayed by COVID-19 precautions. She noted that people with private insurance also did not visit emergency rooms and spent less time in the hospital.

It’s unclear whether last year’s decrease in the cost of providing health care to people with private insurance will lead to changes in premiums.

Sonier also says future health care costs could increase at a higher than anticipated pace because people have been putting off so much preventive care during the pandemic.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.