U.S. health care spending grew at one of the slowest rates in 50 years last year, according to one analysis published on Thursday.
Spending grew 4.4 percent from 2010 to 2011, for a total of $2.71 trillion, the nonprofit Altarum Institute reported. “This represents an increase over the government’s official estimate of spending growth in 2010 (3.9 percent) that was released last month,” the report reads. This is the third slowest rate of growth since national health expenditures have been tracked, the group said.
Health spending makes up a big chunk of gross domestic product -- more than 18 percent as of December, Altarum found. It is forecast to grow rapidly, gradually accounting for a huge part of spending, so any evidence that growth in health spending may be slowing is welcome.
“The health spending share of gross domestic product was 18.1 percent in December 2011, up from 16.4 percent at the start of the recession (December 2007), but down slightly from the all-time high of 18.2 percent in June 2011,” the report reads. “Altarum’s data indicate that health care price inflation was only 2.1 percent for all of 2011, the lowest annual figure since 1998, when it stood at 2 percent.”
Altarum said the health care sector added 31,000 jobs in January 2012 alone, accounting for just under 11 percent of all jobs.
“Spending in December increased in all major categories over the past year, with prescription drugs showing the highest year-over-year growth (7.9 percent) and nursing home care the lowest (0.2 percent),” the report said.