Health care tab will keep ris­ing, fed­eral study says

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Noam N. Levey Tri­bune News Ser­vice

2 WASHINGTON >> Driven by ris­ing prices for drugs and med­i­cal ser­vices, the na­tion’s health care tab will con­tinue to out­pace eco­nomic growth over the next decade, ac­cord­ing to a new govern­ment re­port.

And by 2026, health care spend­ing will ac­count for al­most one-fifth of the U.S. econ­omy, an all-time record.

The new re­port, which was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent econ­o­mists at the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and is widely re­garded as an im­por­tant mea­sure of the na­tion’s health care sys­tem, echoes many re­cent warn­ings about ris­ing costs.

At the same time, the re­port un­der­scores the ur­gency of con­fronting the ever-grow­ing bur­den that health care im­poses on fam­i­lies and govern­ment.

The an­nual growth rate over the next decade is ex­pected to av­er­age one per­cent­age point more than over­all eco­nomic growth.

That means that health care will ex­pand from about 17.9 per­cent of the econ­omy in 2016 to 19.7 per­cent of the econ­omy in 2026.

Some of the in­crease re­flects the fact that the U.S. pop­u­la­tion is aging and will there­fore re­quire more med­i­cal care, the au­thors note.

But the re­port con­cludes that the big­gest driv­ers of ris­ing spend­ing are likely to be higher costs for care and, par­tic­u­larly, for pre­scrip­tion drugs. Spend­ing on re­tail drugs is pro­jected to in­crease 6.3 per­cent a year on av­er­age over the next decade.

As pub­lic out­rage over the price of pre­scrip­tion drugs and med­i­cal ser­vices in­creases, there are grow­ing calls by Democrats for more govern­ment regulation.

But Repub­li­cans op­pose such ef­forts, in­stead back­ing plans to cut govern­ment health care as­sis­tance, which could re­strain spend­ing.

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