Healthcare spending growth for the privately insured slowed in the first half of 2003, rising 8.5%, compared with a 10% increase in the second half of 2002, according to a new report by the Center for Studying Health System Change.
The Washington, D.C.-based think tank attributed the slowdown to increased patient cost-sharing, among other things, but it says it does not expect patient cost-sharing to substantially lower costs over the long term.
While the 1.5-percentage-point decline in spending growth was the largest six-month drop since the early 1990s, healthcare spending continued to outpace growth of the overall economy, HSC says. It reports that the U.S gross domestic product grew by 2.9% in the same period.
"Without more effective cost-control measures, the rising cost of health insurance will make coverage unaffordable to more and more Americans," says Paul Ginsburg, co-author of the study and president of HSC, in a release.
The HSC study also found that in the first half of 2003:
- Growth in prescription drug spending slowed the most of all major indicators, rising 8.5% or nearly five percentage points less than the 13.4% increase in the second half of 2002. It was the first time since the mid-1990s that the drug trend did not grow at double-digit rates.
- Spending on hospital inpatient care grew 7.6% during the first half of 2003, down from the 8.3% in the last six months of 2002.
- Spending on outpatient care increased 12.9% in the first half of 2003, down from 14.1% in the second half of 2002. Outpatient care remains the fastest growing category of health care spending.
- Spending on physician services increased 6.1% during the first half of 2003 and was again the slowest growing category of health care spending.