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U.S. health care spending hit $3.1 trillion in 2014

U.S. health care spending hit $3.1 trillion in 2014

Health care expenditures surged in 2014, fueled by expanded coverage and soaring prescription drug costs, according to government research released Tuesday.

In 2014, total U.S. health care spending hit $3.080 trillion, up from $2.919 trillion in 2013, according to statistics compiled by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs.

That 5.5% increase compares to a 3.6% rise in 2013, which was the lowest in the 55 years that government researchers have been tracking and compiling such information.

Last year's acceleration in health care spending was driven by several factors. Those factors include health care reform law provisions that went into effect in 2014 that expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage and authorized federal premium subsidies for the lower-income uninsured, as well as big spending increases for prescription drugs, where expenditures leaped by 12.6% in 2014.

That prescription drug cost spending increase was “fueled largely by new high-cost specialty drugs for treatment of hepatitis C and, to a lesser extent, new treatments for cancer and multiple sclerosis,” a report summary said.

Health care expenditures are expected to rise in 2015 to a record 18% of the gross domestic product, up from 17.7% in 2014 and 17.4% in 2013, according to the report.

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