- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Growth in health care spending will remain slow through 2013 as the economy slogs along in its recovery, but improving fiscal conditions, an aging population and expanded coverage under President Obama’s health care law will drive up health spending next year by about two percentage points, government analysts said Wednesday.

Actuaries for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said annual health spending grew by slightly less than 4 percent from 2010 to 2013 — a historically low level attributable to the recession that hit in 2008.

“This projection is consistent with the historical relationship between health spending and economic cycles,” the CMS report published by Health Affairs said.

But they expect annual growth in health spending to average more than 6 percent from 2014 to 2022.

The analysts attribute some of that growth to the Affordable Care Act, which by 2022 seeks to reduce the number of uninsured people in America by 30 million.

In the near term, 11 million people are expected to gain health coverage through state-based insurance markets, or “exchanges,” that begin enrollment on Oct. 1 or through the expansion of Medicaid enrollment in about half the states.

Analysts said these new consumers will use goods and services and “contribute significantly” to annual spending increases in Medicaid, at 12.2 percent, and private insurance, at 7.7 percent.

While the economic recovery, Obamacare and the baby boom generation will increase the rate of health spending growth in the coming years, analysts on a conference call Wednesday said the projected annual increase of roughly 6 percent is more restrained than longer-term patterns from the past two decades.

From the early 1990s to about 2006, they said, health spending grew at an annual rate of more than 7 percent.

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