KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Report: U.S. Health Spending Grew At Record Slow Pace For Third Consecutive Year

The country's health care bill tallied $2.7 trillion, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some indicators, though, suggest the slowed growth may not last.

The New York Times: Growth Of Health Spending Stays Low
National health spending climbed to $2.7 trillion in 2011, or an average of $8,700 for every person in the country, but as a share of the economy, it remained stable for the third consecutive year, the Obama administration said Monday (Pear, 1/7).

The Associated Press: Unusual Respite From Surging Health Care Costs
Americans kept health care spending in check for three years in a row, the government reported Monday, an unusual respite that could linger if the economy stays soft or fade like a mirage if job growth comes roaring back. The nation's health care tab stood at $2.7 trillion in 2011, the latest year available, said nonpartisan number crunchers with the Department of Health and Human Services. That's 17.9 percent of the economy, which averages out to $8,680 for every man, woman and child, far more than any other economically advanced country spends (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Cost Pause Nears End
U.S. health-care spending grew at a record low pace for a third consecutive year in 2011, according to federal figures released Monday, but signs are emerging that the slow growth may not last….But data published Monday also showed that the amount spent to treat individuals, as opposed to spending on administration and insurance premiums, began to rise in 2011, signaling that cutbacks in health spending hadn't become permanent (Radnofsky, 1/7).

Politico: What's With Slow Rise In Health Spending?
Health care spending continued to grow at one of the slowest rates in history last year even as signs emerged that the downward pressures applied by the recession were beginning to lift, according to an annual government report published Monday. And experts say that if the recent slowing of health spending is due to changes other than the lost insurance and general belt-tightening of the severe economic downturn, it could have major implications for the country's fiscal prospects (Norman, 1/8).

McClatchy: Growth In Health Care Spending Remains At Record Low In 2011
Total U.S. health care spending hit $2.7 trillion in 2011, making for a three-year run of record-low annual spending growth after the onset of the Great Recession. The roughly 3.9 percent increase in public and private health expenditures for 2011 was nearly identical to the rates of growth in 2009 and 2010. They represent the three lowest annual growth rates in the 52 years the data has been kept, according to a report Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The slower growth resulted from a mix of trends, including a decline in federal public-health spending and slower growth in private health insurance premiums – 3.8 percent. These trends offset an increase in 2011 in the use of personal health-care goods and services as the economy continued to rebound and private health-insurance enrollment stabilized after three years of major declines, said Micah Hartman, a federal statistician who co-authored the report (Pugh, 1/7).

Bloomberg: Health Spending Grows At Half Pre-Recession Level In 2011
Health-care spending in the U.S. grew at less than half the pre-recession level for the third straight year, as employers shifted more costs to strapped workers and state governments limited payouts for the poor. Spending on hospital visits, medications and other care grew 3.9 percent to $2.7 trillion in 2011, matching the slowest growth in 52 years of record keeping, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a report yesterday in the journal Health Affairs. Growth was close to 8 percent before the U.S. entered an 18-month recession in December 2007. Joseph Antos, who researches the economics of health policy at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said changes in employer-sponsored insurance coverage has been a key factor in putting a damper on health-care costs (Edney, 1/8).

The Hill: Health Care Costs Grew At Near-Record Lows In 2011
Healthcare spending grew at near-record lows in 2011, according to data released Monday by the Health and Human Services Department. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius credited parts of President Obama's signature healthcare law with the smaller increase. "A number of provisions in the health care law that will help control costs and spending are still being implemented, but the statistics show how the Affordable Care Act is already making a difference," Sebelius said in a statement. Healthcare spending grew by 3.9 percent last year, according to the latest report on national health expenditures. The rate matches increases in 2009 and 2010, and it's the lowest rate of growth in the 52 years the report has been issued (Baker, 1/7).

NewsHour (Video): Health Care Spending Increases But Rate Slows With Recession And Economy
While health care spending rose in 2012, it did so only slightly due to the recession and slow overall economic growth. Ray Suarez talks to Health Affairs' Susan Dentzer about the dichotomies of health care spending, including why there has been a slowdown in health care spending when personal out-of-pocket costs have increased (1/7).

Some coverage focused on spending for public health, as well as physician services --

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Under Tight Budgets, Public Health Spending Falls For First Time
But one aspect of moderating health expenditures — and the only category showing outright decline — could cost more than it saves. Hit by recession and tight budgets, spending on public health by federal, state and local governments fell in 2011 for the first time since analysts started tracking the numbers in 1960 (Hancock, 1/7).

Medscape: Spending On Physician Services Crawls Out Of Recession
A slowly improving economy drove a 3.6% increase in spending on physician services in 2011, a noticeable improvement over 2.8% growth the year before, the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports. Total healthcare spending in the public and private sectors rose 3.9% to reach $2.7 trillion in 2011, according to a study by CMS economists and statisticians published online today in the journal Health Affairs. That total healthcare spending growth rate, a repeat of 2010 and 2009, is the lowest in the last 52 years and represents the fallout of a recession that officially ended in June 2009. In 2010 and 2011, total healthcare-spending growth closely mirrored the rise in the gross domestic product (GDP), 3.8% and 4%, respectively, according to the CMS Office of the Actuary (Lowes, 1/7).

Medpage Today: Spending On MD Services Up More Than Other Costs
U.S. spending on health care remained flat overall in 2011, the latest year available, but spending on doctors and other clinician services continued to rise, a government report showed. While the U.S.'s health care spending grew 3.9 percent for the third consecutive year in 2011 -- a modest growth compared with years past -- physician and clinical services grew at 4.3 percent, outpacing overall spending for the first time in 3 years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary said Monday in its annual health spending report. Physician and clinical services grew at a slower 3.1 percent and 3.5 percent rate in 2010 and 2009, being outpaced each year by the overall 3.9 percent increase. The 2010 growth in physician spending was the slowest in the 52-year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts study, CMS said last year (Pittman, 1/7).

In other spending news -

Los Angeles Times: Great Recession Forced All Americans To Cut Back On Health Care
Though the Great Recession took a much larger toll on African Americans and Latinos than on whites, members of all three groups were forced to cut back on medical services as a result of the economic downturn, research shows (Kaplan, 1/7).

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