In its annual report, "Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers," PwC's Health Research Institute said the decline in spending growth -- healthcare inflation -- is a signal of progress in the quest to bend the cost curve, or lower healthcare spending.
The ongoing slowdown in the healthcare growth rate defies historical post-recession patterns and is likely to be sustained even as the Affordable Care Act adds millions more to the insurance rolls, the report said.
From 2001-03 healthcare spending inflation peaked at 8.8 percent in a year, but most of the slowdown since 2008 was due to the weak economy as workers delayed treatment, or people lost jobs and health insurance.
However, the PwC's Health Research Institute report said structural changes after 2008 within the healthcare industry resulted in lower costs including: large employers contracting directly with hospital systems, hospital decisions to lower costs and patients choosing walk-in clinics instead of hospital emergency rooms or doctor visits. In addition, employers are passing on more of the cost of health insurance to employees.
PwC's Health Research Institute conducted interviews in March and April with 10 health plan officials, whose companies cover a combined 95 million people about their estimates for 2014 and the factors driving those trends.