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Policy: Economy

First quarter health care spending growth revised down, but still highest since 1980

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,Economy,Budgets and Deficits,Spending,GDP

Health care spending didn't rise as dramatically as originally estimated in the first quarter of this year, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, but the revised 9.1 percent growth rate was still the highest pace since 1980, as Americans gained insurance coverage through President Obama's health care law.

Last month, in a preliminary estimate, BEA said health care spending grew 9.9 percent in the first quarter.

The pace of health care spending growth is a central issue to the nation's long-term fiscal condition, as health programs -- led by Medicare and Medicaid -- are the the largest components of the federal budget. When President Obama pitched his health care law, he argued it would slow the growth in health care spending. And for past several years, Obama and the law's supporters have credited the law with reducing health care spending growth -- a phenomenon that many economists had chalked up to the weaker economy.

The BEA data is part of a body of data suggesting that health care spending is now back on the rise. It will be important to watch to see whether this growth number survives subsequent revisions, and more significantly, whether it's the start of a lasting trend in the coming years, or just a short blip.

Also on Thursday, BEA downwardly revised its overall gross domestic product estimate, reporting that the economy actually shrank by 1 percent during the quarter.

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