Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oncoming Train Slows Down Slightly

The National Health Statistics Group reports that health care spending in 2007 grew 6.1%. The overall response to that news has been an interesting mix - one that gives you the impression that while the oncoming train is still headed for your car stuck on the crossing, at least it's slowed down a bit.

Several media reports focused on the fact that it was the lowest level of growth in health care spending in nine years. But, as Forbes noted, since the total economy grew by only 2.3% in 2007, the 6.1% hike in health care costs still means everyone’s losing ground.

Drug costs grew by only 5%, as a number of low-priced generics came on the market. But hospital and doctor spending grew 7.3% and 6.5%, respectively, and health insurance premiums grew by 6 percent.

Meanwhile, Health Affairs published a study that shows out-of-pocket medical expenses in the U.S. have grown by 40% over the last decade. Study author Kathy Paetz says it's due largely to the fact that middle-aged Americans today are 10 percent more likely to suffer from more than one chronic disease. Prevention, anyone?


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