Growth in US Health Spending Remained Slow in 2010; Health Share of Gross Domestic Product Was Unchanged From 2009


Despite the fact that medical goods and services are generally viewed as necessities, the latest recession had a dramatic effect on their utilization. US health spending grew more slowly in 2009 and 2010—at rates of 3.8% and 3.9%, respectively—than in any other years during the 51-year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts. In 2010, extraordinarily slow growth in the use and intensity of services led to slower growth in spending for personal health care. The rates of growth in overall US gross domestic product (GDP) and in health spending began to converge in 2010. As a result, the health spending share of GDP stabilized at 17.9%. Factors such as high unemployment, continued loss of private health insurance coverage, and increased cost sharing led some people to forgo care or seek less costly alternatives than they would have otherwise used. As a result, growth in the use and intensity of health care goods and services in 2010 accounted for a much smaller share of personal health care spending growth than in previous years. Also, as businesses, households, and state and local governments financed a smaller share of total national health care spending during and just after the recession, the federal government financed a larger share.

Keywords: Gross Domestic Product, Federal Government, Cost Sharing, Insurance Coverage, Health Expenditures

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