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U.S. health care tab hits $3.2 trillion; fastest growth in 8 years

04 December 2016
U.S. health care tab hits $3.2 trillion; fastest growth in 8 years

Public and private spending for US health care increased to $3.2 trillion in 2015 or almost $10,000 per person, according to a government report released Friday.

"Enrollments for these two weeks represent an increase of 167,000 plan selections versus the third and fourth weeks of Open Enrollment previous year", said the release. With that assumption, national health spending growth has been projected to grow at an average of 5.8% a year through 2025.

Credit the Affordable Care Act for the faster health care spending growth the last two years.

While government spending is a hot topic for many, some economists believe that the ends justify the means and in this case, the increase of citizens with insurance coverage justifies spending more money.

President Barack Obama is urging the public to help save his health care law, which is in serious danger of being repealed under President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has chosen as his Health and Human Services secretary Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., an outspoken critic of Obamacare who has written his own legislation to replace it.

Officials say more than 68,000 Illinoisans have selected health plans using the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace, up almost 1,400 compared to the same time previous year.

"The health sector experienced dramatic changes in 2014 and 2015, as the main coverage provisions of the ACA were implemented", according to the report. People must enroll by December 15 if they want their coverage to start January 1.

The rise in health spending is outpacing overall economic growth, and that makes health care harder to afford.

"Over the last 55 years, the largest increases in health spending's share of the economy have typically occurred around periods of economic recession", Martin said.

The current data suggest the pace of spending did begin to pick up again after the economy rebounded, with prescription drug price growth and an aging baby boom generation contributing to the acceleration.

The report said the federal government is now the largest payer for health care.

One aspect of the growth can be directly attributed to a surge of spending on retail prescription drugs, such as "those used to treat hepatitis C, cancer, autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis, as well as in more traditional brand-name medications such as those used to treat diabetes".

Spending for private health insurance jumped 7.2 percent in 2015 to $1.1 trillion. Hospital services account for 32 percent of total health spending. Medicare spending rose 4.5 percent to $646.2 billion, or 20 percent of the total, and Medicaid spending rose 9.7 percent to $545.1 billion, or 17 percent of the total. Medicare enrollment reached 54.3 million past year, up 2.7 percent from 2014.

Medicaid spending hit $545.1 billion past year, up 9.7 percent from 2014. However, the report notes that out-of-pocket spending represents 2 percent less of health care spending than it did in 2007.