Healthcare enters the new year fresh off a yearlong hiring rebound and signs of the most robust spending growth since the Great Recession.
Health systems anticipated that the demand surge from Americans newly insured under the Affordable Care Act would fade in 2016, and late 2015 data support that. HCA cautioned that the biggest gains from the ACA may have already occurred by April. Economists with the Altarum Institute say spending acceleration from the coverage expansion may have peaked last February.
“Coverage is starting to level off,” said Charles Roehrig, head of Altarum's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. “That's telling us that the impact on healthcare spending growth should be smaller as we get into 2016.”
The CMS Office of the Actuary projects that 2016 spending will increase 4.9% to $3.4 trillion. Medicare spending will accelerate next year through 2018. Older baby boomers will create more demand and higher spending.
Continued economic recovery and low unemployment could begin to force employers to increase wages. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates in mid-December, which could boost healthcare prices, too.