Increased employment, coverage may spike health spending

Increased insurance enrollment, due to a combination of the Affordable Care Act and increased employment, means healthcare spending will likely increase, according to the New York Times.

"Following several years of decline, 2013 was striking for the increased use by patients of all parts of the U.S. healthcare system," Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said in a statement. The news follows President Barack Obama's announcement that eight million Americans enrolled under the ACA, as well as the Congressional Budget Office's report that the law will cost less than projected. "Healthcare spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years," Obama said at a press conference Thursday.

An increase in the number of people using the healthcare system could increase costs, according to the article. Industry experts attribute the increase to more economically secure patients who want more procedures from hospitals and doctors. This may lead to insurers offsetting the increased activity with premium increases, which could cut into wage gains and lead to more government spending on the healthcare law.

"If we are seeing an uptick [in spending], it's the beginning of the uptick," Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman told the Times. "We've expected to see a lagged effect, both when the economy declines and when it improves."

Experts cautioned there are not enough data points to know for sure why health spending is on the rise, according to the article, and Jason Furman, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, pointed to other data indicating low growth for premiums, medical goods and services prices. "Even if only one-third of the slowdown is sustained, we will be spending $1,200 less per person on healthcare after a decade," he told the Times.

A March report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis found that healthcare spending grew at a 5.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2013, driven largely by $8 billion in new hospital revenue.

To learn more:
- here's the Times article
- check out the statement 
- read Obama's announcement

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