By Julian Pecquet - 01/06/11 12:00 AM EST
The nation's spending on healthcare grew 4 percent, to $2.5 trillion, in 2009, according to a new report from the Medicare agency's Office of the Actuary — the slowest rate of growth since the federal government began keeping track in 1960.
Despite the slowdown in insurance payments and out-of-pocket spending, the increase in healthcare spending still outpaced the overall growth of the economy, which contracted by 1.7 percent. On average, Americans spent $8,086 per person on healthcare in 2009, far more than any other country.
Democrats have pointed to the unsustainable rate of growth as a key reason to move ahead with healthcare reform that rewards quality rather than quantity of care. Republican critics counter that the law itself does little to cut costs and could make the situation worse by extending coverage to more people.