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U.S. health care spending on the rise

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Rebecca Ewing
Greater access improved uninsurance rates in many states
Greater access improved uninsurance rates in many states

Many Americans have been worried about the potential impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on their wallets for some time now, and the latest federal data shows that the amount of money consumers are spending on health care in general is on the rise. However, many experts point out that this is actually a good thing not only for those people, but the country as a whole.

Health care spending was up 9.9 percent in the first quarter of the new year alone, standing as a reversal of the declines in this regard seen over more or less all of the last four years, according to a report from Think Progress. While some are expressing concern that this means the ACA's coverage mandate is having the opposite effect of causing people to spend more money on their care individually, experts say the opposite is actually true.

People are spending more on health care now because of two things, the report said. The first of these is that the economy has improved to the point that many feel more comfortable spending some of what they might consider to be their discretionary income on routine care that they might not have felt they could afford in the past. Moreover, it might show that many Americans are seeking such treatment specifically because they have insurance. As such, the fact that there was such an appreciable spike in the first quarter of 2014 should have been anticipated.

Why the results were expected
Research from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office conducted in 2009, before the ACA was signed into law, showed that spending would generally increase among people who had previously been uninsured, the report said. Over time, it's likely that will level off, though, because those people will likely continue spending more or less the same amounts on their care year after year, so it's likely that when the amount put toward treatment of this type in the second quarter of the new year - and beyond - begins to flatten, that will be the cause.

Health insurers may therefore see a larger amount of claims coming in, which could indicate that many Americans are taking advantage of the coverage they were mandated to obtain. Helping people to find the most affordable coverage possible may also lead to fewer large claims, because it might prompt them to seek preventative care more regularly.

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