U.S. government health care spending appears to be increasing more because of expansion of benefits than because of the aging of the population.

The National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas, a conservative think tank, has published that assessment in a paper by 2 affiliated researchers, Christian Hagist and Laurence Kotlioff.

The aging of the U.S. population appears to have accounted for only about 25% of the inflation-adjusted increase in U.S. health care spending from 1970 to 2002, while expansion of benefits for people with disabilities and other individuals appears to have accounted for the rest of the increase, the researchers contend.

In the future, the United States probably will benefit from having a much younger population than most other developed countries, but it appears to be on track to experience much greater expansion in benefits than countries such as Canada or Japan, the researchers predict.