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U.S. health care spending topped $3 trillion in 2014

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U.S. health care expenditures accelerated in 2014 and ended a multiyear trend of sharply smaller cost increases, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Wednesday.

Total U.S. health care spending hit $3.031 trillion in 2014, the latest year for which government data is available, or $9,523 per person. The 5.3% increase compares with just a 2.9% rise in 2013 and an average annual increase of 3.7% from 2009 through 2013, CMS said in a report that was published in the journal Health Affairs.

“Two main factors were responsible for spending growth in 2014 — coverage expansion associated with the Affordable Care Act and faster growth in prescription drug spending,” Anne B. Martin, an CMS economist and a co-author of the report, said in a statement.

For example, an average of 5.4 million people a month — most of them previously uninsured — received coverage, often with federal premium subsidies, in public exchanges that opened last year.

On the prescription drug side, costs leaped 12.2% in 2014 to $297.7 billion compared with just a 2.4% increase in 2013.

That 12.2% increase — the biggest in well over a decade — was fueled by increased spending on new specialty medicines, especially those used to treat hepatitis C. New hepatitis C treatment contributed $11.3 billion in new spending, according to the report.

Spending on private health insurance coverage climbed 4.4% to $991 billion. The 2014 increase compares with a 1.6% increase in 2013 and a 3.5% rise in 2012.

Researchers attribute that jump in spending to increases in the number of people covered under private plans, as well as higher costs for hospital services.

As a percent of the nation's gross domestic product, health care spending hit a record 17.5% in 2014, up from 17.3% in 2013 and 16.3% as recently as 2008.