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U.S. Health Care Spending Now at $2.7 Trillion: Report
Date:1/7/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Health care spending grew nearly 4 percent in 2011, reaching $2.7 trillion -- a new high, according to a federal government report issued Monday.

Although this seems like a huge amount of money, the rise actually represents the third consecutive year of "relatively slow growth," the researchers said. Whether spending will pick up again as the economy improves, as it has in the past, isn't known, they added.

"The stable growth in national health spending in 2011 is the result of mixed trends," Micah Hartman, a statistician in the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during a Monday afternoon press conference.

These trends include slowed growth (compared to years past) in expenditures for health insurance, government-funded research and funding for public health, Hartman said.

Those slowdowns, however, were "offset by faster growth in personal health care goods and services," Hartman noted. "The main drivers of the spending trends were Medicare, private health insurance and consumer out-of-pocket payments," he said.

Health care reform has had little effect on spending numbers so far, the researchers said. Although some provisions of the Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act were in place in 2011, their effect on spending was minimal, Hartman said. It won't be until 2014 and beyond that the full benefits of the law will be seen, he said.

The report, which is issued annually, was published in the January issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Among other findings in the report:

  • Health care spending as a part of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has remained steady at 17.9 percent from 2009 to 2011.
  • Americans' personal health care spending increased briskly -- from 3.7 percent in 2010 to 4.1 percent in 2011 -- in part due to higher prescriptio
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