The Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire, Jun 11, 2015
by Drew Altman
Like Californians waiting for the record drought to lift, health cost watchers like me have been waiting for health spending to begin to grow more rapidly again as the economy strengthens. It looks like that may now be beginning to occur.
The U.S. Census Bureau has published new estimates of health spending based on their somewhat obscure but important Quarterly Services Survey. Analysis of the survey data shows that health spending was 7.3% higher in the first quarter of 2015 than in the first quarter of last year. Hospital spending increased 9.2%. Greater use of health services as well as more people covered by the ACA appear to be responsible for most of the increase. People are beginning to use more physician and outpatient services again as the economy improves. The number of days people spent in hospitals also rose.
Overall, as the chart above shows, the increase was much larger in first quarter of 2015 than in the first quarters of 2014 or 2013.