U.S. health care spending grew more slowly than the economy as a whole in 2012, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Overall health care spending increased at a rate of 3.7 percent to $2.8 trillion in 2012, marking a fourth consecutive year of slow growth and relative stability in cost increases, industry journal Health Affairs said.

 

Growth in health care spending since 2009 has occurred at the slowest rates recorded in the 53 years that the data has been recorded, according to the report, which is published in the January issue of Health Affairs.

 

The share of the U.S. economy devoted to health care fell slightly from its 2011 level of 17.3 percent to 17.2 percent in 2012. Faster growth among some health care services was partially offset by slower growth in other areas, said Anne Martin, an economist in the Office of the Actuary at CMS and lead author of the report.

 

"The low rates of national health spending growth and relative stability since 2009 primarily reflect the lagged impacts of the recent severe economic recession," Martin said. "Additionally, 2012 was impacted by the mostly one-time effects of a large number of blockbuster prescription drugs losing patent protection and a Medicare payment reduction to skilled nursing facilities."

 

Personal health care spending (health care goods and services), which accounted for 85 percent of total national health spending, increased by 3.9 percent in 2012, 0.4 percentage points faster than in 2011. This uptick in growth was influenced primarily by faster growth in hospital and physician and clinical services. Partially offsetting this acceleration was slower growth in spending for prescription drugs and nursing home care.