Is U.S. Health Spending Finally Under Control?

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Earlier this month, CMS explained that national healthcare expenditures officially grew only 3.9 percent in 2011, the third straight year of historically low spending growth. According to the most recent NHE figures from the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending, 2012 may follow suit.

The Center for Sustainable Health Spending tracks NHE each month and also compares U.S. health spending and prices to previous months and years. In the first 11 months of 2012, NHE grew 4.3 percent, which analysts said is "shaping up as the fourth straight year of historically low growth."

"We were surprised to see the official spending data for 2011 show a repeat of the unprecedented 3.9 percent figure for the third straight year, since our advance estimates of 2011 were somewhat higher. Nevertheless, our data for 2012 suggest continued slow growth," said Charles Roehrig, director of the Center for Sustainable Health Spending, in a news release.

However, the group said the low spending growth may still be attributed to the recession that originated in 2008. "Economic downturns tend to depress health spending for about five years, so this continuing moderation in spending growth is likely partly attributable to the previous recession," according to the report. "As the recovery strengthens, there will be upward pressure on healthcare costs."

The Altarum Institute also released figures on healthcare prices and employment. Hospital prices grew 2.7 percent from November 2011 to November 2012. Healthcare employment also rose by 45,000 jobs in December 2012, the second-highest increase in more than a decade and well above the monthly average of 26,000.

More Articles on Health Spending:

Commonwealth Fund: 10 Policies That Can Stabilize Healthcare Spending
Study: U.S. Could Save $5B Through Fewer C-Sections
U.S. Health Spending Growth Remains Historically Low in 2011

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