Skilled Nursing Spending Growth Slowed in 2016

Dr. Martha Perez examines Maria Lebron in a room at the Community Health of South Florida Doris Ison Health Center in Miami Florida

Physician and clinical services spending slowed from a growth rate of 5.9% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2016, with total physician and clinical services expenditures reaching $664.9 billion, or 20% of overall healthcare spending. That increase was lower than forecast.

The government says USA health care spending reached $3.3 trillion past year, which averages out to $10,348 for every man, woman, and child.

Spending on home health services also contracted in 2016, with the 4.0% gain to $92.4 billion falling short of the 5.8% growth seen in 2015. The deceleration was largely driven by slower enrollment growth in 2016 after two years of faster enrollment growth due to ACA coverage expansion. People lost their jobs and their health benefits and didn't use as much health care. Physician and clinical services and prescription drug spending growth slowed, while Medicare hospital care spending remained relatively stable in 2015 and 2016. Medicare spending slowed because of lower per enrollee growth rates.

But even as spending growth slowed, health expenditures swallowed a greater part of the economy, with health expenditures making up 17.9 percent share of gross domestic product in 2016.

Growth in healthcare spending in the United States slowed in 2016 following two years of expansion under the Affordable Care Act, a government health agency reported on Wednesday.

Spending on retail prescription drugs grew 1.3 percent in 2016 compared with 12.4 percent in 2014 and 8.9 percent in 2015.

But President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are chipping away at the Affordable Care Act and its coverage provisions, and they maintain they intend to repeal it entirely. Despite large fluctuations in growth rates over the past several years, the 10% share of national health spending is similar to the share in 2009. All 3 major payers-private health insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare-also saw lower rates of spending growth. Authors cited the ramp up of the ACA for the faster growth beginning in 2014. Additionally, 2016 was the fastest rate of growth since 2007. Spending for hospital services hit $1.1 trillion, an increase of 4.7% in 2016.

The slow down was more than federal officials had predicted in a report earlier this year. The notable slowdown in private health insurance spending was mainly driven by slower enrollment growth, slower growth in spending for retail prescription drugs, and a continued shift to high-deductible plans.

Still, health spending continues to outpace overall spending on goods and services, which increased 2.8 percent in 2016.

What's more, according to the CMS actuaries, the slower growth in health care spending in 2016 was more in line with the average annual rate of growth during the period 2008-15 and was higher than growth for the overall economy.

"Not surprisingly, federal government spending grew more slowly in 2016, as the initial impacts of enrollment expansion were realized and Medicaid enrollment growth (particularly for the newly eligible) decelerated". The drop-off in 2016 can be attributed to a decline in spending for drugs used to treat hepatitis C, the introduction of fewer new drugs, and slower growth in prices for both brand name and generic drugs.

"Future health expenditure trends are expected to be mostly influenced by changes in economic conditions and demographics, as has historically been the case", the authors wrote.

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