Healthcare Spending Growth Rate Projected to Dip in 2016: Health Research Institute

PwC logoPwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) projects U.S. medical inflation will dip to 6.5 percent in 2016, capping a 10-year trend of slowing employer medical cost-trend growth in the employer-sponsored market. In the latest installment of its annual report Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers, HRI identifies three factors that are expected to reduce the medical growth rate in 2016:

  1. The Affordable Care Act’s looming “Cadillac tax” on high-priced plans which is accelerating cost-shifting from employers to employees to reduce costs;
  2. Greater adoption of  “virtual care” technology that can be more efficient and convenient than traditional medical care; and
  3. New health advisers helping to steer consumers to more efficient healthcare.

Despite the year-over-year slowdown, HRI also reported that medical inflation still outpaces general inflation, underscoring the challenges ahead for the health industry. In fact, Behind the Numbers identified two factors that will likely exert inflationary pressure on health spending in the year ahead:

  1. New specialty drugs entering the market in 2015 and 2016 will continue to push health spending growth upward; and
  2. Major cyber-security breaches are forcing health companies to step up investments to guard personal health data, adding to the overall cost of delivering care.

“While the health industry has improved in efficiency over the past decade, the slowing employer medical cost growth is because of the increased role of savvy health consumers facing higher cost-sharing responsibilities and more complex decisions,” said Kelly Barnes, PwC’s U.S. health industries leader. “This will continue to impact the New Health Economy in the coming years.”

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National Health Expenditures Continued Slow Growth in 2013

Health spending continued to grow at a slow rate last year the Office of the Actuary (OACT) at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported today. In 2013, health spending grew at 3.6 percent and total national health expenditures in the United States reached $2.9 trillion, or $9,255 per person. The annual OACT report showed health spending continued a pattern of low growth—between 3.6 percent and 4.1– percent for five consecutive years.

The recent low rates of national health spending growth coincide with modest growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which averaged 3.9 percent per year since the end of the severe economic recession in 2010. As a result, the share of the economy devoted to health remained unchanged over this period at 17.4 percent.

“This report is another piece of evidence that our efforts to reform the health care delivery system are working,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “To keep this momentum going, we are continuing our efforts to shift toward paying for care in ways that reward providers who achieve better outcomes and lower costs.”

Total national health spending slowed from 4.1 percent growth in 2012 to 3.6 percent in 2013.  The report attributes the 0.5 percentage point slowdown in health care spending growth to slower growth in private health insurance, Medicare, and investment in medical structures and equipment spending. However, faster growth in Medicaid spending helped to partially offset the slowdown.

Other findings from the report:

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