For the third straight year, the growth of overall U.S. health care spending slowed in 2011, according to a new report from Health Affairs. But there may signs of impending acceleration, the researchers also reported.


In 2011, overall health care spending grew by 3.9 percent overall, reaching $2.7 trillion, and remaining steady at 17.9 percent of GDP. However, personal health care spending grew by 4.1 percent, up from 3.7 percent the previous year, which the study attributed to growth in spending on prescription drugs and physician and clinical services.

In addition, Medicare spending increased by 6.2 percent in 2011, up from a 4.3 percent growth rate in 2010. The researchers attributed the increase to a mix of factors, including a one-time increase in spending for skilled nursing facilities, faster growth in spending for physician services and a bump in Medicare Advantage spending.

Among the other key findings:

  • Overall, U.S. health care spending averaged $8,680 per person.
  • Hospital spending increased by 4.3 percent in 2011, to $850.6 billion. However, the growth rate declined by 0.6 percent from 2010.
  • The number of inpatient days in hospitals declined by 1.1 percent in 2011, while the number of outpatient visits increased by 0.7 percent.
  • Medicaid spending increased by 2.5 percent in 2011, compared with 5.9 percent in 2011.

Click here for a PDF of the report.