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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Growth in U.S. Health Care Spending Slows

It is a sweeping trend that should mean bigger paychecks for middle-class households and hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for the government. Yet only one in 20 Americans is aware of it.

Nationally, spending on health care is growing at the slowest pace ever recorded. Annual spending on health care often grew more than 10 percent a year during the 1970s and ’80s. Growth dipped in the 1990s, only to rise again, but starting in the early 2000s, the rate began falling. It is now just about 4 percent a year.

Yet in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, just 5 percent of all Americans — and 3 percent of uninsured respondents — said that health care spending has moderated. Half of respondents said that costs have been going up at a faster rate lately.

That might be in part because Americans are paying more out of pocket for their health care. For instance, deductibles — the amount a covered individual has to pay for health care before the plan kicks in to cover the remaining costs — have become more common and more expensive.

The percentage of Americans enrolled in a health plan with a deductible of at least $1,000 has climbed to 38 percent in 2013 from 18 percent in 2008, according to a recent survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. And over the same period, the average deductible has increased to $1,097 from $735.

Normally, that moderation in health spending would mean households would receive higher wages: Businesses...

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