In a rare bit of good news for the Obama administration and budget policymakers, health care costs increased last year at their slowest pace since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid 1960s.
The new analysis, released early Thursday by officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, showed health care spending grew last year at a “historic” low 3.9 percent rate, which is slightly below 2009’s record-setting low of 4.0 percent. Health care spending as a share of the economy remained stuck at 17.6 percent, a welcome change from most years when it increases its share of total economic activity.
At a time when the White House and congressional leaders are worried about rampant long term growth of the government’s major health care insurance programs for seniors and the poor, the new data will allow government actuaries to project growth in Medicare and Medicaid over the next decade will be less than previously feared. This could potentially ease the task of the Obama administration and congressional leaders somewhat when they finally negotiate an agreement for slowing the growth of entitlement programs to help reduce the deficit.
Moreover, CMS actuaries are now saying the cost of insuring 30 million previously uninsured Americans under the president’s signature health care reform bill will add only a sliver to overall spending, and that increase is about half the projected growth rate of a year ago.