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Health spending up 7.1 percent

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A new report suggests health care spending is on the rise – just not as fast as the administration says it is.

National health spending in March 2014 grew 7.1 percent over March 2013, according to a report out from the Altarum Institute.

That’s about 3 percent less than the 10 percent figure the Obama administration touted last month. The Obama administration used that figure from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, saying it’s proof that the Patient Protection and Affordable is working and helping the health care industry.

The administration said a 10 percent growth is favorable as it implies more people, now covered under Obamacare, are getting treated and using health care services.

The Altarum Institute said health spending is on the rise, likely the result of a recovering economy. Growth in health spending has been unusually slow for the past few years. Altarum’s report noted that health care spending as part of the gross domestic product reached an all-time high of 17.9 percent in March, and that the health care industry added 18,700 jobs in April.

Meanwhile, health care prices in March grew 1.1 percent year-over-year, while hospital prices grew 1.3 percent, the report said.

Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending, said health spending isn’t on a 10 percent growth path for 2014.

“Health spending growth rates have increased rapidly in recent months, but the 7.1 percent figure observed for March may well mark the end of this acceleration,” Roehrig said. “This is because of a leveling off in the numbers of newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. The 10 percent annualized growth rate for the first quarter of 2014 that has received recent media coverage is based upon comparison to the preceding quarter and is not an indicator of annual growth for 2014 as a whole.”

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