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U.S. health care spending increased modestly in 2013: CMS

U.S. health care spending increased modestly in 2013: CMS

U.S. health care expenditures increased modestly in 2013 as a multiyear trend of low cost growth continued, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Wednesday.

Total U.S. health care spending hit $2.919 trillion in 2013, the latest year for which government data is available, or $9,255 per person. While total expenditures were a record, the 3.6% increase was in line with growth rates that have stayed in a narrow range of 3.6% to 4.1% over the last five years, according to the report, which was published in the journal Health Affairs.

“The continued low growth in health spending is consistent with the modest overall economic growth since the end of the recent severe recession and with the long-standing relationship between economic growth and health spending — particularly several years after the end of economic recessions, when health spending and overall economic growth tend to converge,” the report said.

In addition, health care expenditures as a portion of the gross domestic product remained at 17.4% for the fifth consecutive year.

Spending on private health insurance premiums increased modestly to $961.7 billion. The 2013 increase of 2.8% compares with a 4% rise in 2012 and a 4.3% increase in 2011.

Helping to hold down health care premiums, according to the report, has been the growth in enrollment in high-deductible, consumer-driven health care plans. In 2013, those plans insured 20% of employees with health care coverage, up from 17% in 2011, according to the report.

Consumers enrolled in CDHPs, which cost 9% to 12% less than the average preferred provider organization plan, “tend to use services at a lower rate than these enrolled in plans with lower or no cost sharing,” the report said.

The cost of prescription drugs also continued to increase modesty, though at a much higher rate than in 2012. Spending on prescription drugs rose by 2.5% in 2013, up from just 0.5% in 2012.

That exceptionally low increase in 2012 was due to the one-time impact of the “patent cliff” when several blockbuster drugs worth $35 billion lost patent protection and lower-cost generics became available, according to the report.

“The result was lower overall prices for these drugs,” the report said.

Factors leading to more spending on prescription drugs in 2013 included higher prices for brand-name drugs and increased utilization.

Spending on hospital services climbed 4.3% in 2013, down from 5.7% in 2012. Factors leading to the modest slowdown included a decrease in the number of inpatient days.

In addition, spending on physician and clinical services climbed by 3.8% compared with 4.5% in 2012. The report attributes the smaller rise in spending to reductions in Medicare payments to providers and smaller growth in spending for freestanding ambulatory surgical and emergency centers.

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