Study: Slow growth in health costs will continue

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PwC's Health Research Institute expects that trend to continue not only as the economy continues to improve, but after the healthcare law brings millions of uninsured people into the healthcare system, driving up demand.

“Healthcare cost increases continue to exceed overall growth in wages, but the gap appears to be shrinking," said Michael Thompson, a principal at PwC. "The long-term trends suggest that as the economy improves, the cycle of runaway cost increases will be broken."

PwC said changes employers will likely make to their healthcare plans will lower the net growth rate even more — down to 4.5 percent.

The consulting firm said some parts of the Affordable Care Act are contributing to the slowed growth in healthcare costs. It cited new penalties on hospitals whose patients must be readmitted soon after being discharged, as well as still-developing efforts to improve care coordination and efficiency.

Slow growth is also being driven by changes in employer-based healthcare plans, which are increasingly shifting more costs to employees, the report said.