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Study: Health-Care Spending Growth Saw Biggest Drop in 2003 Since 1990s

After 13 years of double-digit health insurance premium increases,
a new study has found that growth in health-care spending slowed to 8.5% during the first half
of 2003, which could result in lower premium rates in the future.

(12/18/2003) -- Health care spending growth per privately insured American slowed in the first half of 2003, increasing 8.5 percent, a sharp drop from the 10 percent increase in the second half of 2002, according to a Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) study released Dec. 12.

The 1.5 percentage point decline in health care spending growth in the first half of 2003 was the largest six-month drop since the early 1990s. Nonetheless, health care spending in the first six months of 2003 grew nearly three times faster than growth in the overall economy, as measured by 2.9 percent growth in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) during the same period.

"Increased patient cost sharing is probably an important factor in the slowing of cost trends, but few experts expect this tool to substantially lower cost trends over the long term," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., coauthor of the study and president of HSC, a nonpartisan policy research organization funded exclusively by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Without more effective cost-control measures, the rising cost of health insurance will make coverage unaffordable to more and more Americans," Ginsburg said.

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