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USA health spending growth slows, but still rises to 17.9% of GDP

08 December 2017, 07:55 | Winifred Adams

US Healthcare Spending Hit $3.3T in 2016

National Health Spending Growth Slows in 2016 in Wake of Coverage Expansions, Decline in Drug Spending

Growth in US health spending slowed considerably in 2016, rising by 4.3 percent, after two years of higher spending growth spurred by Obamacare and prescription drugs.

Spending on retail prescription drugs grew 1.3 percent in 2016 compared with 12.4 percent in 2014 and 8.9 percent in 2015.

Spending on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, rose by 3.9 percent a year ago, compared to 9.5 percent in 2015 and 11.5 percent in 2014.

Among goods and services, retail prescription drugs saw the lowest growth rate, with physician and clinical services, which make up 20% of overall health spend, up 5.4% and hospital spending up 4.7%, making it 32% of all healthcare spending. It also noted that private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid all saw spending slowed due to lower growth rates per enrollee.

The slower growth in 2016 may indicate a return to a more normal trend with future factors based on economic conditions and shifting demographics, the authors write. Changes in the age and gender mix of the population accounted for a 0.6 percentage point of the growth in per capita health spending.

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US health spending rose to $3.3 trillion in 2016, but the pace slowed compared to the previous two years as demand for drugs, hospital care and physician services weakened, according to a federal study released Wednesday. "In 2016, the slowdown in health care spending followed significant insurance coverage expansions under the ACA and very strong growth in retail prescription drug spending in 2014 and 2015".

"The faster growth in 2016 was due in part to a continued shift towards enrollment in high-deductible health plans, which was somewhat offset by a continued decrease in the number of uninsured in 2016", according to CMS. Republicans in Congress have tried unsuccessfully to cap federal Medicaid spending to states to help control growth in the program, an effort opposed by Democrats and advocates for the poor.

Still, health care spending grew slightly faster than the overall economy in 2016, increasing health care's share of the economy from 17.7 percent in 2015 to 17.9 percent previous year.

In all, payers spent $162.7 billion on care at nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), an increase of 2.9% from 2015. Spending growth for clinical services (8.2%) outpaced growth in spending for physician services (4.6%) for the twelfth consecutive year. Increases in medical prices accounted for 1.4 percentage points, while growth in the residual use and intensity of healthcare goods and services accounted for the remaining 1.6 percentage points. Medicaid spending hit $565.5 billion a year ago, making up 17% of all national health expenditures. The slowing was driven by fewer new drugs being introduced and less spending on pricey treatments for hepatitis C. The pace of home health spending slowed compared to recent years, though total spending in home health ticked up.

Spending on retail prescription drugs grew by only 1.3 percent, to $328.6 billion, in 2016. The share of spending made up of retail prescription drug is similar to what it was in 2009, CMS said.



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