Economists at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report that 2013 had the lowest annual increase in spending since 1960, the year the government began tracking this statistic. The slow growth of just 3.6 percent is only partly explained by Obama’s health care law because it was only partly implemented in 2013. Obamacare actually had a push and pull effect on the economy. That is, it held costs down in some areas while pushing costs up in others.
The growth is primarily chalked up to lack of confidence following a deep economic recession and uncertainty about economic recovery. What analysts will be looking at moving forward is: will healthcare spending increase as the economy improves? History suggests it will.
The U.S. spent $2.9 trillion health care dollars in 2013. This accounts for everything from hospital and doctor fees to nursing home care and prescriptions. Although it represents little growth from the previous year, to put it into perspective, in 2013 the U.S. still spent well over what any other developed nation spent (with approximately $9,255 spent on each person for healthcare).
A critical finding of the Department of Health and Human Services report is that health care spending remained stable as a 17.4 percent share of the total economy. Why is this important? If health care outpaces economic growth, the new health care law, Medicare, and Medicaid will be harder to pay for.