Spending on hospitals, doctors and social services grew 5.6% year over year in the third quarter of 2015, indicating that healthcare expenses are still outpacing the higher growth rate recorded last year.
That figure comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's latest Quarterly Services Report (PDF) and does not include several other components of the healthcare system, such as pharmaceuticals and other medical products. Revised census figures also show that year-over-year healthcare spending increased 7.1% in the first quarter of this year and 6.2% in the second quarter.
While those rates are higher those for 2014, 2015 is still tracking behind the growth rates that were recorded in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Last week, CMS actuaries and economists said U.S. healthcare spending went up by 5.3% in 2014, pushing the country's healthcare bill above the $3 trillion mark. It was the first full year in which millions of Americans obtained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and economists have said that naturally led to a rise in healthcare spending.
This year, even more people have purchased health plans on the insurance exchanges or received coverage through expanded state Medicaid programs. Those populations appear to be visiting hospitals and doctors just as frequently, which many insurers like UnitedHealth Group and the ACA's co-ops have confirmed.
Hospitals constitute the largest portion of health services spending. Their revenue increased 5.3% in the third quarter of this year, compared with census figures for the same period last year. Spending at physicians' offices climbed 7.4%, and outpatient center expenditures rose 8.6%. Spending on nursing homes and residential-care facilities increased by a modest 3.3%.
The Census Bureau will release fourth-quarter economic data on March 10.