Healthcare spending may reach $10K per person this year

The year 2015 may be the time where healthcare spending in the United States reaches a specific milestone: $10,000 per person.

The National Healthcare Expenditure may reach $3.2 trillion this year, according to Forbes magazine. Based on a population of 320 million Americans, that would mean spending $10,000 per person.

That number may be reached despite the fact that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported last month that healthcare spending in 2013 was the lowest on record, with an increase of 3.6 percent.

"We may be 'bending the cost growth curve,' but the per capita amount continues to grow," wrote Forbes contributor Dan Munro.

Munro noted that much of the growth in healthcare spending in recent years has shifted to individual patients now enrolled in high-deductible, or consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). A survey by the national benefits firm Mercer concluded that 88 percent of companies with 20,000 or more employees may offer CDHPs by 2017. Although evidence suggests that many consumers like CDHPs, there is still scant data as to how it affects healthcare spending overall.

"The effect of this, of course, is largely unknown. Proponents of CDHPs argue that it's a much needed shift to foster more consumer accountability for healthcare utilization," Munro wrote. "Opponents argue that we lack the scientific evidence (certainly at this early stage) to know what the real effect is on health and outcomes--and there's a significant risk associated with healthcare that's delayed or avoided because of cost."

Munro believes that a fix to the sustainable growth rate payment formula for doctors treating Medicare patients could do much to the moderate healthcare spending growth in the coming year, but he does not expect that to actually occur. A budget deal passed by Congress late last year did not include a SGR fix, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article