Health spending in the U.S. continued to rise at a historically low rate last year and will remain weak this year as the economy continues to drag, blockbuster drugs go off patent and households are responsible for a growing share of medical bills, federal projections show.
U.S. health spending increased 3.9% last year for the fourth straight year and is projected to grow 3.8% this year, according to federal economists and actuaries who published the estimates online Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.
Health spending as a percentage of the economy remained at 17.9% last year and is projected to inch upward to 18% this year.
The projections extend a streak of sluggish health spending growth that began with the Great Recession and coincided with a national debate on healthcare reform ahead of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Soft spending growth has provoked debate over how much of the slowdown could be a result of stagnant wages and unemployment and what might be more efficient care in response to new public policy.