Health Care Spending, Growth in Insurance Benefits Slows

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2014-12-11 Print this article Print
health care and spending

Spending on Medicaid expenditures reached $449.4 billion in 2013, accounting for 15 percent of total national health expenditures.

Health care spending in the United States grew at a rate of 3.6 percent in 2013 to $2.9 trillion, or $9,255 per person, an increase slower than the 4.1 percent growth in 2012, according to analysis from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The slow growth rate continued a pattern of low growth that has held relatively steady at between 3.6 percent and 4.1 percent annual growth for five consecutive years, with health spending's share of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) remaining at 17.4 percent in 2013.

Slower growth in both private health insurance and Medicare contributed to the 0.5 percentage-point slowdown in the nation's health care spending growth, while private health insurance premium growth slowed from 4 percent in 2012 to 2.8 percent in 2013.

Contributing factors included low overall enrollment growth, a shift toward enrollment in consumer-directed high deductible plans, historically low underlying benefit cost trends, and the impact of the medical loss ratio requirement and rate review required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Growth in private insurance benefits slowed from 4.4 percent in 2012 to 2.8 percent in 2013, largely driven by slower growth in spending for hospital services and physician and clinical services, the report noted.

"The National Health Expenditure Accounts provide historical estimates, at an aggregated level, of total health care spending in the US by medical good, service, payer, and type of sponsor," Micah Hartman, a statistician with the National Health Statistics Group, Office of the Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told eWeek. "Unfortunately, there are no explicit estimates of health information technology available from our work, because we don't have that level of detail in the underlying sources that we use to estimate health care spending."

Hartman said despite this, their estimates implicitly capture the net impacts of changes that occur to national health spending through the increased use of health IT in the delivery of health care.

A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated health plans, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are all anticipating major shifts in how care is delivered, and the public is interested in adopting mobile technology and other forms of IT for health and medical reasons.

The survey found almost half of the general public believe that a patient's use of mobile technology will help his or her caregivers to work more as a team, and nearly 80 percent of physicians feel the same way.

Meanwhile, spending by consumers, including copayments, deductibles, and spending on services not covered by insurance, grew by 3.2 percent in 2013--slightly slower than the 3.6 percent growth rate in both 2012 and 2011.

Spending on Medicaid expenditures reached $449.4 billion in 2013, accounting for 15 percent of total national health expenditures.

This followed growth of 4 percent in 2012 and 2.5 percent in 2011, the two slowest growth years in the history of Medicaid excluding 2006 when Medicare Part D was implemented.


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