Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Rise in Health Spending Slowed during Recession

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Rise in Health Spending Slowed during Recession

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Health care spending grew at its slowest rate in 50 years in 2009, as the recession caused Americans, especially those with lower incomes and less insurance coverage, to cut back on their use of physician, hospital, and other health services, according to a report issued by federal analysts.

The data indicated that Americans specifically reduced their physician office visits in 2009, and in particular, reduced their visits to primary care physicians.

The overall 4% rate of health spending growth followed an increase of 4.7% in 2008. In 2009, the nation's total health tab was $2.5 trillion, or $8,086 per person, according to the annual analysis of a federal data set called the National Health Expenditure Accounts by economists and statisticians at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The analysts found that even with a low rate of health care spending growth, health care spending increased as a share of the nation's gross domestic product. Health costs accounted for 17.6% of the GDP, up a record 1% from the previous year.

The recession depressed the GDP, and thus allowed health care to gobble up a larger share, said the federal analysts at a press briefing announcing their findings. The analysis was published in the journal Health Affairs (2011:111-22 [doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2010.1032]).

The economists and statisticians painted a picture of a nation stunned by job loss and declining incomes. In the past, there has been a lag between a recession and any impact on health costs, largely because it has been thought that people will always need health care, Anne Martin, an economist at the CMS Office of the Actuary, said.

But in 2009, the impact was almost immediate, according to Ms. Martin.

Seventy-one percent of the nation's health spending was covered by insurance from private or public payers, according to the report. Medicare spending remained steady from 2008 to 2009, but there was a large reduction in spending by private insurers. The government analysts said that this was due in part to a reduction in private coverage. They estimated that private insurance enrollment declined by 6.3 million people or 3.2%.

Medicaid, on the other hand, saw its rate of spending grow by 4%, in part offsetting the slowdown by other payers, said Ms. …

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