NU Online News Service, June 11, 2003, 4:43 p.m. EDT – Double-digit increases in outpatient hospital costs and prescription drug costs pushed U.S. health care spending up 9.6% in 2002, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change, Washington.

The overall rate of increase was down from 10% in 2001, but the increase was still the second-biggest recorded in at least 12 years, according to health system center figures.

Center researchers based their figures on statistics from the federal government, benefits consulting firms and Milliman USA, Seattle, an actuarial consulting firm.

Physicians collected only 6.5% more in 2002 than they did in 2001, and hospitals received only 6.8% more for inpatient services. But U.S. residents spent 15% more on hospital outpatient services and 13% more on prescription drugs.

Even though spending on physician services and hospital inpatient services rose relatively slowly, it still climbed more than twice as fast as the 2.7% growth rate for the U.S. gross domestic product.