KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Care Spending Grew At Record Slow Pace

Americans' spending on health care rose a relatively modest 3.7 percent in 2012 -- slower than the growth of the overall economy -- dropping from 17.3 percent of U.S. spending to 17.2 percent, according to an annual report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The New York Times: Another Modest Rise For Health Costs
As a share of the economy, health spending declined slightly, to 17.2 percent in 2012, from 17.3 percent in the prior year. For decades, health spending has grown faster than the economy, taking a bigger bite out of workers' wages and the federal budget. Health spending averaged about $8,900 a person in 2012, according to the annual report issued Monday by the government (Pear, 1/6).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Detailed Report Delivers Good News On Health Costs, But Will It Last?
Definitive 2012 numbers show continued, historically low increases in medical prices and the use of medical services. Health spending rose 3.7 percent, up slightly from 2011 but far below the 8 percent increases of the early 2000s, according to figures released Monday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Hancock, 1/6). 

NPR: Health Care Costs Grew More Slowly Than The Economy In 2012
Health care spending grew at a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to a new government report. But the federal officials who compiled the report disagree with their bosses in the Obama administration about why (Rovner, 1/6).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Health Care Costs Keep Rising But At Slower Pace
The relentless rise in health care spending -- which had threatened government budgets and helped pave the way for President Obama's health law -- continued to moderate in 2012, the fourth year of a historic slowdown, newly released federal data show. … For only the third time in the last 15 years, health spending grew more slowly than the overall economy as measured by the non-inflation-adjusted U.S. gross domestic product. That meant that health care shrank slightly as a share of the U.S. economy, from 17.3 percent in 2011 to 17.2 percent in 2012 (Levey, 1/6).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Good News! Health Spending As A Share Of The Economy Is Shrinking.
The share of the economy devoted to health care fell in 2012, according to federal data released Monday. The decline -- the largest in more than a decade -- comes after four years of unprecedentedly slow growth in health care spending. And it has economists puzzling, yet again, over whether the slackening merely reflects the short-term impact of the recession or shows a larger, more structural change in the medical industry (Kliff, 1/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Care Spending Grew at Modest Pace in 2012
Economists say health care costs are the biggest driver of the nation's long-term fiscal problems, and until the economic shocks of 2008 those costs seemed to be growing unstoppably. Since 2010, however, health spending has risen roughly in line with economic growth, and in 2012 it accounted for 17.2 percent of gross domestic product, down from 17.3 percent in 2011 (Schatz and Morath, 1/6).

USA Today: Growth Of Spending On Health Continues To Slow
The researchers would not comment on 2013 or trends moving forward, saying they have to wait for the data. However, they did explain why the growth spending rate seems to be stabilizing after the recession years. Anne Martin, lead author on the report, said that both consumers and employers make decisions about health care based on what's happening at the time, but those decisions can affect costs for years to come (Kennedy, 1/6).

Reuters: U.S. Health Spending Rose 3.7 Percent In 2012 As Economy Dragged
U.S. health care spending rose 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, the fourth year in a row in this range as the slow economic recovery tempered private insurance use, drug prices fell and the government held back payment increases for doctors, the Obama administration said on Monday (1/6).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Tested By Recession's Effect On Health Care
The U.S. recession remained a drag on health-care spending three years after it ended as a net of 9.4 million people lost private insurance coverage before key provisions of Obamacare had begun, a government report showed (Wayne, 1/7).

CQ HealthBeat: Health Spending Dips Below GDP Growth -- But No Huzzahs For Health Law
National health spending growth remained unusually low in 2012 -- even taking the rare turn of dipping below Gross Domestic Product growth -- but government economists aren't making return trips to the liquor store to lay in new supplies of champagne (Reichard, 1/6).

ABC News: Health Spending Growth Slows, But Obamacare Impact 'Minimal'
For the fourth year in a row, Americans' spending on health care grew at one of the slowest rates ever recorded. National health expenditures in 2012 increased just 3.7 percent over the year before -- a rate relatively stable since 2009 and at historic lows, according to new analysis from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. All told the country spent $2.8 trillion on health care, or $8,900 per person, last year, gobbling up 17 percent of the economy (Dwyer, 1/7).

In other news related to medical pricing --

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: How Much Does A New Hip Cost? Even The Surgeon Doesn't Know 
They were only able to correctly estimate the cost of a device 21 percent of the time, according to a survey of 503 physicians at seven major academic medical centers published this week in Health Affairs. Their guesses ranged from 1.8 percent of the actual price to 24.6 times the actual price. Researchers could not release the actual costs, because they signed nondisclosure agreements with the hospitals (Gold, 1/6).

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