National health spending remains low, enough to drop slightly as percent of GDP

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In very good news, CMS actuaries have found that national spending on health care grew only 3.7% in 2012 – the fourth year of low growth and less than the rate of growth in the overall US economy at 4.6%. Per capita health spending grew by only 3%. The low rate caused the share of GDP going to health spending to drop slightly (from 17.3% to 17.2% but going in the right direction). The slower growth was driven by lower growth in prescription drug, nursing home, private health insurance and Medicaid spending. Hospital, physician and clinical services, especially consumer out-of-pocket costs, were up. Slower growth was driven mainly by slowing health care prices, increased availability of generic drugs, and changes in Medicare payments in the ACA. US households remain the largest payer of health care bills, more than private businesses, federal or state and local governments. Health care costs to American households grew by 4.3% in 2012, up from 3.1% the year before. In contrast, government health care cost growth dropped from 3.6% in 2011 to 2.6% in 2012.