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US Health Spending May Have Hit $2.4 Trillion in 2008

Private health spending growth due to hit 15-year low

TUESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Health spending in the United States was estimated to be $2.4 trillion last year, and is expected to account for an unprecedented share of the economy this year, according to a report published online Feb. 24 in Health Affairs.

Andrea Sisko, and colleagues at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore, write that the economic downturn will affect health spending patterns, by reducing the amount of private health insurance coverage and increasing Medicaid enrollment and spending.

The share of the economy that is accounted for by health spending is set to grow by 1.0 percent from 16.6 percent in 2008 to 17.6 percent in 2009, the largest single annual increase, and is expected to double by 2018 to $4.4 trillion, accounting for 20.3 percent of gross domestic product, the authors write. Spending on Medicaid is estimated to have increased by 8.1 percent in 2008 versus 2007 to $466 billion, and future Medicare spending will accelerate as the baby-boomer generation becomes eligible, the researchers report.

"The recession has wide-reaching implications for the health care sector," Sisko noted in a statement. "Policymakers and the public will be faced with tough decisions regarding the future of the health care system."

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