Health Care Spending Nationally Remained Slight, Government Reports

The recession slowed the once-explosive rate of growth in health spending, and medical experts say that the rate of growth was probably even smaller in the African-American community.

Posted: 01/10/2012 06:23 PM EST

Spending on health care nationally rose by a relatively modest 3.9 percent in 2010 for the second consecutive year, a reflection of Americans postponing visits to doctors and lower prescription drug purchases, according to figures reported by the Obama Administration.

The level of health care spending was significantly affected by the recession, as many Americans faced unemployment, diminished income and a loss of their health care benefits, the report said.

Medical experts said that, based on the figures in the annual government report, it was likely that health care spending in the African-American community was even more modest, given the crippling impact of the recession on the nation’s Black community.

“For Black Americans, who have been even more adversely affected by the recession, it means that there is even less money being spent on health care,” said Gary C. Dennis, a former president of the National Medical Association, an organization of African-American physicians that seeks to develop policies that eliminate disparities in health care.

“The problem remains that there is still a problem in access to health care in the minority community,” Dennis said. “There are still too many African-Americans living in urban areas without adequate health care.”

According to the report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the continued effects of the recession helped to curb the huge growth in health care spending in several previous years. For 2010, total health expenditures reached $2.6 trillion, which translates to about $8,000 a person.

Normally, the pace of health care spending exceeds the growth rate in the overall economy. However, in 2010, the growth rates were similar, so that health care accounted for roughly the same share of total economic output in 2009 and 2010.

Health care spending for older Americans under the Medicare program grew in 2010 by 5 percent, the smallest rate of increase in more than a decade, the report said. The main reason was a slowdown in spending for the managed care program known as Medicare Advantage.

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(Photo: The Press-Register/Landov)

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