National U.S. Health Care Spending Relatively Stable

But during 2011, personal health care spending growth accelerated

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The growth in national U.S. health care spending was relatively stable in 2011, but growth in personal health care spending accelerated, according to a study published in the January issue of Health Affairs.

Micah Hartman, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore, and colleagues assessed trends in health care spending for 2011.

The researchers found that 2011 marked the third consecutive year of relatively slow growth in U.S. health care spending, with an increase of 3.9 percent, to reach $2.7 trillion. In 2010 and 2011, growth in national health spending closely paralleled growth in nominal gross domestic product (GDP). From 2009 through 2011, health spending as a share of GDP remained stable, at 17.9 percent. While national health spending remained stable, there was acceleration in the growth in personal health care spending in 2011 (from 3.7 to 4.1 percent), partly due to faster growth in spending for physician and clinical services and prescription drugs. Spending growth trends varied by payment source in 2011, with Medicaid spending growth slowing and Medicare, private health insurance, and out-of-pocket spending growth accelerating.

"Overall, there was relatively slow growth in incomes, jobs, and GDP in 2011, which raises questions about whether U.S. health care spending will rebound over the next few years as it typically has after past economic downturns," Hartman and colleagues conclude.

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