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U.S. Health Care Spending Totaled Nearly $2.6 Trillion in 2010

January 9, 2012
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Nationwide health care expenditures increased only modestly in 2010 from 2009 but expenditures now are nearly double what they were a decade ago, according to government research released Jan. 9.

In 2010, total U.S. health care spending hit $2.593 trillion, or $8,402 per person. While a record, expenditures rose only 3.9 percent in 2010, up slightly from a 3.8 percent increase in 2009, according to statistics compiled by researchers at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and published in the journal Health Affairs.

Those annual percentage increases were the lowest in the 51 years that government researchers have been tracking and compiling such information.

Still, while spending grew modestly, health care expenditures remained at a record 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product in 2010, the latest data available. In 2000, health care expenditures were 13.8 percent of GDP and totaled $1.377 trillion. Government researchers say the relatively slow growth in spending during the past two years was recession-driven as consumers remained cautious about their spending.

"Slower growth in spending for hospital care and physician and clinical services along with record low growth in spending for prescription drugs, reflected slower growth in the use of these goods and services," the CMS researchers said.

Enrollee spending on private health care benefits, which includes employer-sponsored plans, increased 3.7 percent in 2010, down sharply from a 6.9 percent increase in 2009.

"The slowdown was influenced by an increase in cost-sharing among employer-based health insurance plans, with most expenses being passed on to the consumer," the article noted.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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