US Health Care Spending Growth Slows As Private Insurance Coverage Continues To Shrink Amid 2010’s Slow Economy

U.S. health care spending grew 3.9 percent in 2010 to $2.6 trillion or $8,402 per person according to the Annual Report of National Health Expenditures (Report).  The Report notes that since 2007, the economic recession and legislative changes led to a noticeable change in the shares of health care spending financed by businesses, households, and governments. Declining enrollment in private insurance resulted in continuing growth in government financing of this care. The federal government financed 29 percent of the nation’s health care spending in 2010, an increase of six percentage points from its share in 2007 of 23 percent, and reached $742.7 billion.  Part of that increase came from enhanced Federal matching funds for State Medicaid programs under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act which expired in 2011.    Review the details of the Report here.

 National Health Expenditures 2010 Highlights

U.S. health care spending grew 3.9 percent in 2010.  Coupled with record slow growth of 3.8 percent in 2009; the 2009-2010 represents the two slowest rates of growth in the fifty-one year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts.  The Report reflects the following breakdown of these expenditures;

  • Hospital Care: Hospital spending increased 4.9 percent to $814.0 billion in 2010 compared to 6.4-percent growth in 2009. Average annual growth in hospital spending between 2007 and 2010 was 5.5 percent. CMS reports this increase was slower than the trend between 2003 and 2006, when spending increased an average of 7.4 percent per year.  Growth in private health insurance spending for hospital services, which in 2010 accounted for 35 percent of all hospital care, slowed considerably in 2010.  The Report states that these trends occurred at the same time median inpatient hospital admissions declined and emergency department and outpatient hospital visits grew more slowly than in 2009.
  • Physician and Clinical Services: Spending on physician and clinical services increased 2.5 percent in 2010 to $515.5 billion, a deceleration from 3.3-percent growth in 2009. The 2010 deceleration reflects a decline in utilization, driven by a drop in total physician visits between 2009 and 2010 and a less severe flu season than in 2009.
  • Other Professional Services: Spending for other professional services, which includes providers of services such as physical therapy, chiropractic medicine, and mental health, decelerated slightly in 2010, increasing 3.6 percent to $68.4 billion after growth of 3.8 percent in 2009.
  • Dental Services: Spending for dental services increased 2.3 percent in 2010 to $104.8 billion compared to growth of only 0.1 percent in 2009. Out-of-pocket spending for dental services (which accounts for over 40 percent of dental spending) increased 0.5 percent in 2010 following a decline of 5.2 percent in 2009.
  • Other Health, Residential, and Personal Care Services: Spending for other health, residential, and personal care services grew 5.3 percent in 2010 to $128.5 billion, a deceleration from growth of 7.7 percent in 2009. This category includes expenditures for medical services delivered in non-traditional settings (such as schools or community centers), ambulance providers, and residential mental health and substance abuse facilities.
  • Home Health Care: Spending growth for freestanding home health care services slowed in 2010, increasing 6.2 percent to $70.2 billion following growth of 7.5 percent in 2009, as Medicare and Medicaid spending growth slowed in 2010.
  • Nursing Care Facilities and Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Spending for freestanding nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities increased 3.2 percent in 2010 to $143.1 billion, a deceleration from growth of 4.5 percent in 2009, driven by slower growth in Medicare and Medicaid spending.
  • Prescription Drugs: Retail prescription drug spending grew only 1.2 percent to $259.1 billion in 2010, a substantial slowdown from 5.1-percent growth in 2009. The slowdown was driven by slower growth in the volume of drugs consumed, a continued increase in the use of generic medications, loss of patent protection for certain brand name drugs, fewer new drug introductions, and a substantial increase in Medicaid prescription drug rebates.
  • Durable Medical Equipment: Spending for durable medical equipment, which includes items such as eyeglasses, contacts and hearing aids, increased 7.3 percent to $37.7 billion in 2010 after increasing 0.8 percent in 2009.
  • Other Non-durable Medical Products: Spending for other non-durable medical products, such as over-the-counter medicines, reached $44.8 billion, an increase of 2.6 percent in 2010, the same rate of growth as in 2009.

 Health Spending by Major Sources of Funds:

The Report indicates that the portion of health care expenditures financed by private health insurance continued to decline as private health plan enrollment declined.  As a result, the proportion of health care expenditures paid by government programs continued to rise.  The federal government financed 29 percent of total health spending in 2010, a substantial increase from its share of 23 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the shares of the total health care bill financed by state and local governments (16 percent), private businesses (21 percent), and households (28 percent) declined during the same time period.  Specifically, the Report indicates the following:

  • Medicare: Medicare spending grew 5.0 percent in 2010 to $524.6 billion, a deceleration from growth of 7.0 percent in 2009. Spending for fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare grew 5.0 percent in 2010 following growth of 4.5 percent in 2009. Medicare Advantage (MA) spending increased 4.7 percent in 2010, a steep deceleration from 15.6-percent growth in 2009 that resulted from an adjustment to payment rates in 2010.
  • Medicaid: Total Medicaid spending grew 7.2 percent in 2010 to $401.4 billion, a deceleration from 8.9-percent growth in 2009, driven primarily by slower growth in enrollment. Federal Medicaid expenditures increased 8.9 percent, while state Medicaid expenditures grew 3.9 percent. This difference in growth was due to approximately $41 billion in enhanced federal aid to states—a result of increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
  • Private Health Insurance: Growth in total spending for private health insurance premiums slowed in 2010 to 2.4 percent from 2.6 percent in 2009, continuing a deceleration that began in 2003. Growth in aggregate benefit payments also slowed, from 3.7 percent in 2009 to 1.6 percent in 2010. The slowdown reflects a decline in private health insurance enrollment, increases in cost sharing, and a shift by some consumers to plans with lower premiums. However, for the first time in seven years, growth in total premiums exceeded growth in total benefits; as a result, the private health insurance net cost ratio increased from 11.4 percent in 2009 to 12.1 percent in 2010.
  • Out-of-Pocket: Out-of-pocket spending grew 1.8 percent in 2010, an acceleration from growth of 0.2 percent in 2009. Faster growth in 2010 partially reflects higher cost-sharing requirements for some employers, consumers’ switching to plans with lower premiums and higher deductibles and/or copayments, and the continued loss of health insurance coverage.

The Report found household health care spending equaled $725.5 billion in 2010 and represented 28 percent of total health spending, slightly lower than its 29 percent share in 2007.  Growth in total private health insurance premiums slowed in 2010 to 2.4 percent from 2.6 percent in 2009, continuing a slowdown that began in 2003.  Despite this deceleration, for the first time in seven years, the growth in premiums exceeded the growth in insurer spending on health care benefits, with the net cost of insurance increasing by 8.4 percent or $11.3 billion in 2010. Out-of-pocket spending by consumers increased 1.8 percent in 2010, accelerating from 0.2-percent growth in 2009. 

The state and local government share of total health spending declined from 18 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2010 and totaled $421.1 billion, in part due to the temporary assistance in the Recovery Act.

 Project COPE: Coalition On Patient Empowerment & Coalition For Responsible Health Care Quality

Project COPE: Coalition on Patient Empowerment & the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Quality  are coalitions of individuals and organizations that share the belief that every American and American organization has a stake, and something to contribute to our ability to find and implement the best options for ensuring that the U.S. health care system provides quality, affordable health care.

Health care impacts every individual and every organization in America.  Consequently, every American citizen and organization including but not limited to health care providers, employers, insurer, and community organizations should take part.    The government, health care providers, insurers and community organizations can help by providing education and resources to make understanding and dealing with the realities of illness, disability or aging easier for a patient and their family, the affected employers and others. At the end of the day, however, caring for people requires the human touch.  Americans can best improve health care by not waiting for someone else to step up or speak up. 

Project COPE urges and invites each individual and organization speak up to help communicate and act to make health care work for themselves, their families and others when you can and share your input to help preserve and continue to develop real meaningful improvements to our health care system by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here by sharing ideas, tools and other solutions and other resources. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here .  You also can access information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources. 

Examples of recent updates that may be of interest include:

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