Healthcare spending growth to drop next year, PwC report finds

Report finds inflation to slow to 6.5%

NEW YORK — Spending on health care will slow down in 2014 despite a flood of new patients who will have insurance, according to a new study.

The PwC Health Research Institute study, titled Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers, forecasts 6.5% inflation in healthcare spending despite the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act adding millions of new patients. The report noted that the slowdown in spending was contrary to the experience of previous recessions.

"The health industry is at an inflection point as it rebalances, realigns and prepares for full-scale transformation from fee-for-service medicine to consumer-centered, accountable care," PwC U.S. health industries leader Kelly Barnes said. "Change of this magnitude takes time and will come in stages. Health organizations should learn to adapt to a market in which growth may be lower in the near term and pursue new sources of growth often in unlikely places."

According to the study, structural changes in the healthcare industry are helping keep costs down and deliver care more efficiently, while consumers are making spending adjustments, delaying care, using fewer services and choosing less expensive options like retail clinics, urgent care centers and mobile health devices.

"Healthcare cost increases continue to exceed overall growth in wages, but the gap appears to be shrinking," PwC human resource services practice principal Michael Thompson said. "The long-term trends suggest that as the economy improves, the cycle of runaway cost increases will be broken."

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