Health spending exploded after O-Care coverage expansion

Total spending on medical care spiked in the first quarter of 2014 as people gained health insurance under ObamaCare, according to government data released Wednesday.

The dramatic 9.9 percent growth in healthcare spending helped to boost the economy overall amid slow growth in other sectors.

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U.S. gross domestic product grew at a rate of 0.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, a disappointing number that the Obama administration blamed on persistently severe winter weather.

The data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) confirms expectations that the healthcare law would lead to greater use of medical services this year.

This measurement is distinct from growth in healthcare prices, which remained low, at a rate of 0.5 percent. Data from the BEA, though, is frequently subject to revision.

In a blog post, the White House called both trends good news for consumers.

"The details of today's report suggest that the underlying cost trends in the health sector remain favorable," administration officials wrote.

"This increase in utilization is neither a surprise, nor a cause for concern … Meanwhile, consumers continued to benefit from very slow growth in healthcare prices."

Anticipated by healthcare experts, the overall increase in healthcare spending comes after several years of unusually slow growth in medical expenditures.

Economists attributed the slowdown primarily to the recovering economy. Families stretching to make ends meet were spending less on healthcare, they reasoned.

The Obama administration argued that the Affordable Care Act's reforms were partly to thank for the trend.

Healthcare spending began to pick up at the end of last year, when the bureau reported that overall spending grew at a rate of 5.6 percent, the fastest since 2004.

This uptick occurred before the healthcare law's coverage expansion took effect, pointing to an increase in the use of medical care as the economy recovered.