Much has been noted recently about a decrease in the growth of healthcare spending as announced by the Obama administration early this month.
“The pattern observed in recent years is not unique and is consistent with historical patterns,” Anne Martin of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said. The agency’s report noted: “The key question is whether health spending growth will accelerate once economic conditions improve significantly; historical evidence suggests that it will.”
Three recent pieces in The New York Times explore different aspects of what causes this decrease in growth rate and what it means for consumers and for the future (“Good News Inside the Health Spending Numbers,” “Health Spending Rises Only Modestly,” and “The Health-Cost Slowdown Isn’t Just About the Economy.”).
The medical system really is changing, which is why cost growth has been slow. But the changes aren’t guaranteed to continue. Some key points include:
- Health spending in 2013 grew at the lowest rate since government officials started tracking it — back in 1960.
- 2013 is the fourth consecutive year that health spending growth has kept pace with the growth in the overall domestic economy, suggesting something more durable than random.
- The slowdown in health spending growth began in 2002 and has become more pronounced in recent years.
- Spending by the federal Medicare program, private health insurance and people’s out-of-pocket expenditures all declined, suggesting that the savings were systemwide and not due to changes in just one kind of insurance.