Data from the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute shows far fewer people are being admitted to hospitals in New Jersey thanks to improvements in medical care in recent years. But he the price of inpatient care rose by nearly 40 percent over the past four years.

Institute CEO and President Linda Schwimmer said New Jersey has the fifth highest per-person spending for healthcare nationwide. Those prices are going up more rapidly by the rest of the country — up by 18 percent over the period versus 15 percent nationally. So why is New Jersey going up more rapidly?

Schwimmer said the data raises a lot of questions but not a lot of answers.

"We need to look into how we can utilize this information to really start to address healthcare spending and try to make it more affordable," she said.

On average, healthcare costs in New Jersey surpassed $6,000 annually per patient. Schwimmer said this is for the employed population younger than 65 years old and who tend to be healthier because they are of working age.

The data also found many dramatic price increases in New Jersey. For instance, newborn care spiked up in spending by 49 percent. She said some of that was higher utilization of neonatal intensive care units and more C-section deliveries.

Certain types of drugs went up in cost significantly.

Spending on mental health and addiction treatment rose 23 percent.

Labor and delivery jumped 17 percent and spending on surgery went up 20 percent in New Jersey. In addition, the data found that the cost of outpatient care grew 19 percent and the cost of inpatient care spiked 12 percent despite a 19 percent decrease in hospital use.

"If you can have a procedure done at a lower cost setting that's still high quality, that's fantastic but the overall spending for a hospital inpatient care went up by 12 percent," said Schwimmer.

That means that just focusing on reducing utilization is not going to be enough. She said there is still an 18 percent increase in spending and that needs to be addressed.

While she does not know for sure how health care spending can be affordable in the Garden State, Schwimmer had some strategies that could help such as team-based care. Everything can be done by nurses, social workers and other medical personnel as a team effort so doctors can work on complex patients.

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