May 8—Structural changes in the industry are one reason why U.S. healthcare spending growth slowed by more than $500 billion between 2003 and 2012, according to two studies in Health Affairs.

The first study attributed the majority of the spending slowdown between 2003 and 2012 to fundamental changes, including less rapid development of imaging technology and new pharmaceuticals, increased patient cost sharing, and greater provider efficiency. Other causes were the 2007–09 recession (accounting for 37 percent of the slowdown) and a decline in private insurance coverage and cuts to some Medicare payment rates (8 percent), according to the study. Public-sector healthcare spending could be as much as $770 billion less than predicted if these trends continue during 2013–2022, the researchers concluded.

Rising out-of-pocket costs for employees due to higher cost-sharing in their insurance plan designs during 2009–11 accounted for about 20 percent of the national per-capita healthcare spending slowdown, according to the second study. The slowdown persisted even when benefit generosity was held constant, which suggests that other factors, such as a reduction in the rate of introduction of new technology, were also at work, the study’s researchers concluded.

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2013