Healthcare Spending Slowed in 2009

Americans’ healthcare spending grew by just four percent in 2009 (the last year for which statistics are available), the smallest annual increase in 50 years. This suggests that Americans did not seek healthcare because of lost jobs and a lack of healthcare insurance due to the recession.  At the same time, healthcare insurance premiums increased at a faster pace than in 2008.  Additionally ,the number of Americans with coverage fell by 6.3 million.  Out-of-pocket spending on healthcare showed a slight increase.  Medicaid spending rose sharply by nine percent, compared with less than five percent in 2008.  This is a result of more people qualifying for Medicaid, again because of the recession.

The statistics, released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are a sign that the recession left a deep imprint on healthcare in America – far worse than other recent recessions.  “Job losses caused many people to lose employer-sponsored health insurance and, in some cases, to forgo health-care services they could not afford,” according to economists and statisticians at HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The report, which has been compiled by the government annually since 1960, is the most recent snapshot of spending across the healthcare system.

Healthcare spending in the United States totaled $2.5 trillion in 2009, adding up to an average of $8,068 per person.  The four percent rise recorded in 2009 compares with more than six percent in 2007, eight percent in 2005 and double-digit increases in 1990 and 1980.  Even with the slowdown in spending, healthcare spending still comprised 17.6 percent of the GDP in 2009.

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