National health-care spending surges 5.6 percent

Health-care spending nationwide saw the largest percentage-point growth in nine years in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to new data by the U.S. Bureau of Commerce.

Spending on health-care services grew by 5.6 percent annually in the fourth quarter, the highest rate of growth since the third quarter of 2004, when health-care spending grew by 5.8 percent.

The American Hospital Association said in a statement that the jump was likely due to the improving economy.

The increase was more than twice as high as the growth rate in the third quarter of 2013, when the rate grew by just 2.7 percent, according to the bureau’s data.

The most recent increase was driven by an $8 billion rise in hospital revenue, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The slowdown in health-care spending in recent years was largely attributed to the fact that many people were laid off during the recession, leaving thousands uninsured or without the appropriate income to visit a doctor.

This most recent growth spurt is in sharp contrast to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in January. That report, based on data from 2012, showed that health-care spending had slowed significantly during the recession.

Total U.S. health-care spending in 2012 was $2.79 trillion, up just 3.7 percent from the previous year, amounting to 17.2 percent of the U.S. economy, marking the first time since 1997 that health-care expenditures didn’t outpace the gross domestic product.

But with the economic recovery, people have regained coverage or have more disposable income than they did a few years ago, so they can now receive treatment that they may have been putting off.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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