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U.S. Health Spending Rises More Slowly, Hits 2.6 T (That’s Trillion)

Just out in the journal Health Affairs: The recession has slowed down the annual growth in the nation’s health-care bill to 3.9%, but the slowing seems to come mainly from strapped people passing up needed care. And the total still comes to a nearly unimaginable $2.6 trillion, or $8,402 per person.

‘A trillion seconds ago was 30,000 BCE’

Actually, not so unimaginable: I just got some help picturing a trillion from Stuart Altman and David Shachtman’s new book, “Power, Politics and Universal Health Care.” They quote Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber as telling audiences that a million seconds ago was just last week, a billion seconds ago Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974, and a trillion seconds ago was 30,000 BCE. Ullp. Per person, countries like Canada, Germany and France spend less than half what we do, they note.

From the Health Affairs press release:

Bethesda, MD— An extraordinary slowing of the growth in use of health care goods and services contributed to a second year of slow health spending growth in 2010, federal analysts reported in the January issue of Health Affairs. Persistently high unemployment, a substantial loss of private health insurance coverage, lower median household income, and the burden of increased cost sharing led people to forgo care or seek less expensive treatment options. Continue reading