US health spending rises to $3.2 trillion

U.S. spending on healthcare rose to $3.2 trillion in 2015, an increase of 5.5 percent from the year before, the Obama administration announced in a report Wednesday. 

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The spending growth is an increase from recent years like 2013, when health spending growth achieved record lows of around 4 percent. Still, the growth is lower than recent historical averages before the recession.

One question that is still being debated is how much ObamaCare has contributed to a slowdown in health spending growth. The health law set in motion a range of programs aiming at changing how healthcare is paid for, toward rewarding quality over simply the number of services provided. 

Jason FurmanJason FurmanIn surprise, unemployment rate falls, economy adds jobs Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims The Memo: Scale of economic crisis sends shudders through nation MORE, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said last week that it is “borderline absurd” to attribute the slowdown to the economy and not at least in substantial part to ObamaCare. 

"The Affordable Care Act continues to help keep overall health spending growth at a modest level and at a lower growth rate than the previous two decades,” Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in response to the report on Wednesday. “This progress is occurring while also helping more Americans get coverage, often for the first time.”

Over the next 10 years, health spending is expected to grow at a rate of 5.8 percent, which is 1.3 percent faster than growth in the economy as a whole. 

Drug spending has been a particularly scrutinized area given calls to address the rising cost of prescription medications. 

The report finds that drug spending grew 8.1 percent last year, a slight slowdown from the spike of 12.2 percent the year before. 

However, the report projects that drug spending growth will come back down somewhat, to an average of 6.7 percent, over the next 10 years.