U.S. Health Tab Projected to Hit $4.7 Trillion in 2020

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Published July 28, 2011

| FoxNews.com

The good news: health care spending in 2010 rose at a historically low rate. The bad news: that low rate resulted from people losing their jobs and their health care coverage. And, even worse, health care spending is already on the upswing again, and is predicted to reach a record $4.7 trillion per year by 2020. 

Those are some of the findings of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in its annual report published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs. 

"That increase in growth between now and 2020," said Shawn Keehan, lead author of the Center's report, "is higher than per capita income is expected to grow." 

Keehan told Fox News that the average American spent $8,327 on health care in 2010; but, by 2020, that per capita spending will increase to $13,709. 

"The burden of health care spending on American families is expected to be significant," said Keehan. "A large percentage of households will be spending more on health care than they are today." 

According to the government report, projected growth is driven by an aging population and the soaring cost of medical innovations. 

The report says the unusually low growth rate of 3.9 percent in 2010 will rise to 8.3 percent in 2014 when President Obama's health care law is fully implemented. However, between 2015 and 2020, growth will level off to an annual rate of 6.2 percent annually. 

Overall, according to the report, the yearly growth rate in spending will only be 0.1 percentage point higher than without the new health care law. That's partly because most of the newly insured will be younger and will not require hospitalization or other expensive kinds of medical treatment. 

And the report says that in 2014, when the health care law kicks in, some large employers are expected to stop offering health care coverage. That was partly the focus of a congressional hearing on "The Impact of Obamacare on Job Creators and Their Decision to Offer Health Insurance." 

Business experts who testified before the House Subcommittee on Health Care said companies would stop offering group coverage, predicting instead a "cattle drive to the exchanges," -- a reference to the subsidized health care exchanges where consumers can shop for health coverage under the new law. 

Experts on the panel predicted wide job losses. 

Andrew Pudzer, C.E.O. of Hardees and Carl's Jr. restaurants, said, "Businesses are uncertain about health care costs." As a result, he said, "Business owners are not investing and they don't hire." 

Another witness, J. Michael Brewer, president of Lockton Benefit group, which advises businesses on their employee benefit programs, complained about administrative costs involved in the health care law. 

"Anything that erodes the profits of a business," said Brewer, "impedes its ability to create jobs."

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