MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Health care spending grew only 3.8% in 2009 and 3.9% in 2010, the smallest spending increase in 50 years.
The rate of growth in the health care sector has slowed every year since 2002, but the rates in 2009 and 2010 were especially pronounced, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services national health expenditure report.
The CMS report showed that high unemployment and reduce household income, because of the poor economy, led Americans to scrimp on medications and doctors’ visits.
"The slow growth in health spending in 2009 and 2010 was influenced by slower growth in the use of healthcare goods and services as consumers remained cautious about their spending, in part because of losses in private health insurance coverage, lower median household income, and future financial uncertainty," said the CMS analysts who published the report in the January issue of Health Affairs.
Fewer people were admitted to the hospital in 2010 than 2009, according to the report. Growth slowed for ER visits, outpatient visits and outpatient surgeries.
There were fewer doctors’ office visits as well. In 2009, growth in physician and clinical services grew by 3.3%, but in 2010, it grew by only 2.5%.
David Lassman, a statistician in the CMS Office of the Actuary, told Medpagetoday.com that more people put off going to the doctor to save money in 2010 than they did in 2009 and that a less severe flu season in 2010 led to fewer office visits and less prescription drug spending.
The federal government picked up a bigger portion of the health care spending tab in 2009 than in previous years, primarily due to state Medicaid programs under the 2009 economic stimulus bill.
Analysts found that out of pocket spending grew for consumers in 2010, but said it wasn’t because people wanted to spend more of their own money on health care costs. More than likely many employer-sponsored health care plans changed in 2010 to require employees to foot a higher portion of their medical bills, according to the report.
The CMS report didn’t reflect spending changing from the Affordable Care Act, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance, because most of the major Obamacare revisions won’t go into effect until 2014.
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