U.S. health spending in the last quarter of 2014 grew only 3.9%, a tenth of a percentage point lower than the federal government's initial estimate from January.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis released the figures Friday. It's the second of three estimates showing the value of all healthcare services and other goods.
The revised 3.9% growth rate for health spending was unadjusted for inflation and was down from last month's 4% estimate.
When adjusted for inflation, health spending ticked up 3%. Paul Hughes-Cromwick, a senior health economist at the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending, said it's still odd that healthcare spending would remain so low, given that so many people have gained health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The government will release its final estimate of fourth-quarter spending March 27, which he believes will more closely reflect higher patient volumes, as patients clear their deductibles in increasingly popular high-deductible plans, as well as other healthcare investments.
“My guess is in the final revision that will come up a little bit,” Hughes-Cromwick said.
Overall gross domestic product only grew 2.2% year over year, a percentage Hughes-Cromwick called “disappointing.” But he thought it was noteworthy that healthcare services accounted for roughly a quarter of all economic growth.
Follow Bob Herman on Twitter: @MHbherman