December 6, 2018 / 9:07 PM / in 4 days

U.S. healthcare spending growth slows for second year in a row

FILE PHOTO: A nurse walks along the hallways of a health center in Lepanto, Arkansas, U.S., May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht

(Reuters) - Healthcare spending growth in the United States slowed for the second year in a row in 2017, mainly due to slower spending growth for hospital care, physician and clinical services as well as retail prescription drugs, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

National health spending grew at a rate of 3.9 percent to $3.5 trillion, the health agency reported on Thursday. In 2016, it grew at 4.8 percent. The low rate of spending growth in 2017 was similar to the average annual growth rate of 3.9 percent seen between 2008 and 2013.

Last year, a decline in growth in the number of prescriptions dispensed, a shift to lower-cost generics, and slower uptake of high-cost treatments - notably those that treat hepatitis C, contributed to slower growth in prescription drug spending.

The CMS had earlier this year projected spending to rise 5.3 percent in 2018, reflecting rising prices of medical goods and services and higher Medicaid costs, expecting the upward trend to continue for the next decade.

Growth in spending for private health insurance and the government’s program for the poor, Medicaid, also slowed, while spending on the Medicare program remained relatively flat.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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