MENLO PARK, Calif., April 22 (UPI) -- Slower growth in U.S. healthcare spending can be traced primarily to the economic downturn, a study found.
The study, if correct, settles the argument on whether or not skyrocketing growth in healthcare costs has been curbed due to changes in insurance, healthcare services or consumer choice or whether it has been curbed simply by the fact that millions of Americans are out of work.
The study released Monday by the Kaiser Foundation and the Altarum Institute said 77 percent of the slow growth in healthcare spending is due to the recession while 23 percent is the result of changes in the healthcare system, including higher costs for patients.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday growth in healthcare spending averaged 8.8 percent per year 2001-03. In 2009-11, growth averaged 3.9 percent a year, the newspaper said.
The fear is that as the economy recovers, healthcare spending will begin to rise at crushing speeds again.
"The problem of health costs is not solved and we need to be realistic that health-spending increases will return to more typical levels as the economy improves," Kaiser Family Foundation Chief Executive Officer Drew Altman said.
"If we could shave even a percentage point or more off annual healthcare spending increases, we could save trillions of dollars over the next decade," Altman added.
The study said the federal Affordable Care Act would account for a one-time bump in healthcare spending starting in 2014 as the number of insured Americans grows.
That rise will be mitigated by smaller Medicaid payments to healthcare providers and other cost-cutting measures, the newspaper said.