Report: US Healthcare Spending Slows for Fourth Straight Year

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 11:01 AM

By Melanie Batley

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U.S. spending on healthcare has slowed for the fourth consecutive year, new government figures show, and while the White House was quick to attribute the trend to the Affordable Care Act, experts say it is primarily linked to the lingering effects of the recession.

Overall spending on healthcare rose by 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, only the third time in the last 15 years that health spending grew more slowly than the overall economy, Reuters reports.

"The relative stability since 2009 primarily reflects the lagged impact of the recent severe economic recession," said Anne Martin, an economist in the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the report.

During that period, millions of Americans cut back on medical care, the report notes, and other factors unrelated to the economy include the increasing use of generic drugs, reduced payment increases for doctors and hospitals, and slower growth of Medicare spending, according to Reuters.

The report also concluded that the new healthcare law had minimal impact on national health spending in 2012, and commentators were quick to highlight those findings.

"First of all, the law hasn't really been implemented. It's just starting to be implemented. The CMS report from the Obama administration specifically said the Affordable Care Act had minimal effect on national health expenditures," Avik Roy, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told CNBC's "The Kudlow Report."

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The White House, nonetheless, said the president's signature healthcare law was to credit for the slower growth in spending.

"The slowdown in the rise of healthcare costs, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, has already begun to pay dividends in the form of savings for American consumers, lower costs for businesses, and our rapidly declining deficits," Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, wrote in a blog Monday.

Republicans have shot back, saying the administration's claims are misleading.

"No matter how much bluster the White House puts behind these findings, the actuaries continue to show that Obamacare's impact on slower growth is negligible. To suggest otherwise is nonsense," Brendan Buck, spokesman to House Speaker John Boehner, told The Hill.

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