The moderate overall health spending growth suggests less spending than many experts anticipated from the newly insured. “It's growing more slowly than all of us have been expecting,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending. The notably weak physician spending “is a bit of a riddle,” he said.
The survey (PDF), released each quarter by the Census Bureau, offers an estimate of operating revenue for U.S. hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices and other ambulatory providers. The numbers are among the more accurate early snapshots of health spending in the second quarter.
Hospital executives and policy experts attributed weak first-quarter spending on health services to a harsh winter and consumers who put off shopping for health plans until March, the final month to buy insurance in state and federal exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Demand from an estimated 9 million to gain public or private insurance this year as a result of the health reform law was projected to end the historic slowdown in health spending since the recession. National health spending—which also includes expenses for pharmaceuticals, public health, medical research and construction—is projected to grow 5.6% this year as insurance coverage expanded and the economy improved, according to federal officials.
The Census Bureau's survey will be used to revise a federal estimate of health spending and overall economic growth, or gross domestic product, expected this month. The last estimate, released in September, showed an annualized increase of 2.9% in the second quarter. The Commerce Department's estimates of economic growth can vary widely with revision, as was the case with health spending in the first quarter.
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