Slower Health Care Cost Growth: It’s a Worldwide Pattern

9th February 2019 Off By binary
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Catherine Rampell noted in her column today the sharp slowing in health care cost growth in the last decade. This is an important point, which has received remarkably little attention. The Medicare projections and the budget projections more generally look far better than would otherwise be the case because of lower than projected health care cost growth. (It is hard to understand why the Obama administration did not try to take more credit for the slower cost growth.)

Anyhow, there is an important point to add to this picture. There has been a similar slowing in most other wealthy countries. According to data from the OECD, between 1990 and 2008, per person spending rose at a 6.7 percent annual rate. It slowed to a 4.8 percent rate in the years from 2008 to 2017. In Spain, spending growth declined from 6.9 percent to 2.2 percent. In the Netherlands the decline was from 5.9 percent to 3.4 percent. And in France the decline was from 5.5 percent to 3.2 percent.

While the slower growth in the United States is good news (it’s actually associated with better health among the elderly population where the slowing was sharpest), it seems that the driving force goes beyond policy changes in the United States. Some of the slowing in European countries was undoubtedly the result of austerity imposed by deficit-obsessed governments. But it is striking that the slowdown occurs in most wealthy countries at roughly the same time. And, this is in spite of an aging population that requires more health care.

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