Slowed healthcare spending growth could be a windfall of $770 billion

May 13, 2013 at 11:23 PM
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BOSTON, May 13 (UPI) -- If U.S. healthcare spending growth has stabilized to about 3 percent a year, the healthcare savings could be about $770 billion in 10 years, researchers say.

David M. Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in the Department of Economics at Harvard University in Boston, and Nikhil R. Sahni, a senior researcher in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, said despite earlier forecasts to the contrary, U.S. healthcare spending growth slowed in the past four years.

"We found the 2007–09 recession -- a one-time event -- accounted for 37 percent of the slowdown between 2003 and 2012. A decline in private insurance coverage and cuts to some Medicare payment rates accounted for another 8 percent of the slowdown, leaving 55 percent of the spending slowdown unexplained," Cutler and Sahni said in a statement.

"We concluded a host of fundamental changes -- including less rapid development of imaging technology and new pharmaceuticals, increased patient cost sharing and greater provider efficiency -- were responsible for the majority of the slowdown in spending growth."

If these trends continue during 2013-22, public-sector healthcare spending would be as much as $770 billion less than predicted.

"Such lower levels of spending would have an enormous impact on the U.S. economy and on government and household finances," the researchers said.

The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.

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