Altarum: Healthcare spending growth has begun to stabilize

A new report suggests that healthcare spending growth has begun to stabilize.

Healthcare spending growth has begun to stabilize, according to a new report. 

Altarum Institutes' monthly economic indicators report found that several factors point to stabilizing healthcare spending. First, healthcare spending's share of the U.S. gross domestic product has not fluctuated much over the past year. In February 2016, it reached 18% and since then has not dropped below 17.9% or topped 18.1%. 

In addition, hospital spending and hiring growth is on the decline, according to the report. Hospital spending growth this year averaged 3.3% through October, compared to 4.7% in 2016. Hospitals have added 60,000 jobs so far this year, down from 109,000 by this point in 2016. 

Hospital job growth has averaged 5,400 per month through November, compared with 9,900 monthly in 2016, according to the report. 

A recent CMS study found healthcare spending growth slowed in 2016. Spending last year grew 4.3% to reach $3.3 trillion, a slower rate following two years of rapid growth in 2014 and 2015, according to CMS

CMS also found that healthcare spending per capita topped $10,000 last year, reaching $10,348. Limited growth in prescription drug spending, just 1.3%, is a major factor contributing to that slowdown.  

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"The lower official rate for prescription drugs is likely due to adjustments for rebates, which official government spending figures include while our monthly tracking data do not," Charles Roehrig, Ph.D., a senior economist and fellow at Altarum, said in the report. "We are researching ways to adjust our monthly prescription tracking data for rebates." 

Healthcare spending growth is projected to outpace growth in GDP, and experts predict that spending on healthcare will make up more than 20% of the U.S. economy by 2025. 

Though coverage spikes under the ACA that drove significant growth over the past several years are slowing, experts expect healthcare spending to continue to increase due to an aging population and growing healthcare costs.