Total national healthcare spending in 2018 grew 4.6 percent, which was slower than the 5.4 percent overall economic growth as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a study conducted by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and published today ahead of print by Health Affairs.
As a result, the share of the economy devoted to health spending decreased from 17.9 percent in 2017 to 17.7 percent in 2018. Growth in overall healthcare spending has averaged 4.5 percent for 2016-2018, slower than the 5.5 percent average growth for 2014-2015, that was affected by expanded Medicaid and private insurance coverage and increased spending for prescription drugs, particularly for drugs used to treat hepatitis C. The growth in total national healthcare expenditures was approximately 0.4 percentage point higher than the rate in 2017 and reached $3.6 trillion in 2018, or $11,172 per person.
According to the report, private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid experienced faster growth in 2018. The faster growth for these payers was influenced by the reinstatement of the health insurance tax which was applied to private health insurance, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid Managed care plans. The health insurance tax was a fee imposed on all health insurance providers beginning in 2014 as a part of the funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was subsequently amended to institute a one-year moratorium on the fee for 2017.
- Private health insurance spending (34 percent of total health care spending) increased 5.8 percent to $1.2 trillion in 2018, which was faster than the 4.9 percent growth in 2017. The acceleration was driven in part by an increase in the net cost of private health insurance, which was a result of the reinstatement of the health insurance tax in 2018 following a one-year moratorium in 2017.
- Medicare spending (21 percent of total health care spending) grew 6.4 percent to $750.2 billion in 2018, which was faster than the 4.2 percent growth in 2017. The faster growth in Medicare spending in 2018 was influenced by faster growth in the net cost of insurance of Medicare private health plans (mostly Medicare Advantage plans) due to the reinstatement of the health insurance tax in 2018, faster growth in Medicare spending for medical goods and services, and an increase in government administration spending after a reduction in 2017.
- Medicaid spending (16 percent of total health care spending) increased 3.0 percent to $597.4 billion in 2018. This was faster than the rate of growth in 2017 of 2.6 percent. The faster rate of growth in 2018 was driven by faster growth in the net cost of insurance for Medicaid managed care plans, also due in part to the reinstatement of the health insurance tax.
- Out-of-pocket spending (10 percent of total health care spending) includes direct consumer payments such as copayments, deductibles, and spending not covered by insurance. Out-of-pocket spending grew 2.8 percent to $375.6 billion in 2018, which was faster than the 2.2 percent growth in 2017. Faster out-of-pocket spending growth for retail prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, and dental services more than offset a slowdown in out-of-pocket spending for hospital care.
Health care spending growth was mixed in 2018 for the three largest goods and service categories – hospital care, physician and clinical services, and retail prescription drugs.
- Hospital spending (33 percent of total healthcare spending) increased at about the same rate in 2018 as in 2017, growing 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, to reach $1.2 trillion in 2018. The steady growth in 2018 was driven by an acceleration in hospital price growth that was offset by slower growth in the use and intensity of hospital services.
- Physician and clinical services spending (20 percent of total healthcare spending) increased 4.1 percent to reach $725.6 billion in 2018. This was slower than the rate of growth in 2017 of 4.7 percent. The deceleration in 2018 was driven by slower growth in the use and intensity of physician and clinical services, as physician and clinical price growth accelerated in 2018.
- Retail prescription drug spending (9 percent of total healthcare spending) grew 2.5 percent in 2018 to $335.0 billion following slower growth of 1.4 percent in 2017. This faster rate of growth was driven by non-price factors, such as the use and mix of drugs consumed, which more than offset a decline of 1.0 percent in prices for retail prescription drugs.
Additional highlights from the report include:
- Sponsors of Healthcare. In 2018, the federal government’s spending on health care increased 5.6 percent, accelerating from growth of 2.8 percent in 2017, and was driven by faster growth in the federally-funded portions of Medicare and Medicaid expenditures. Private businesses’ health care spending increased 6.2 percent in 2018 due primarily to faster growth in employer-sponsored private health insurance premiums. The federal government and households accounted for the largest shares of spending (28 percent each), followed by private businesses (20 percent), state and local governments (17 percent), and other private revenues (7 percent).
The National Health Expenditure estimates have been revised to reflect the most recent and up-to-date source data that is available (and may not have been available for last year’s vintage of the National Health Expenditure Accounts).
The 2018 National Health Expenditures data and supporting information will appear on the CMS website at: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/NationalHealthAccountsHistorical.html