In 2014, per-capita health care spending grew by 4.5 percent and overall health spending grew by 5.3 percent, a study by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published this week. Those rates are below most years’, prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, consumer out-of-pocket spending grew by only 1.3 percent in 2014, as compared to 2.4 percent growth in 2013, reflecting the increased number of individuals with health coverage.

The report concludes that the increase in spending growth from 2013 was primarily driven by millions of new people with health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act and by rapidly rising prescription drug costs. Overall, spending on prescription drugs grew by 12.2 percent in 2014, compared to 2.4 percent growth in 2013, fueled largely by spending for new medicines, particularly for specialty drugs such as those used to treat hepatitis C. On a per-enrollee basis, overall spending increased by 3.2 percent in private health insurance and 2.4 percent for Medicare and decreased by 2.0 percent in Medicaid.

“Millions of uninsured Americans gained health care coverage in 2014,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, “And still, the rate of growth remains below the level in most years prior to the coverage expansion, while out-of-pocket costs grew at the fifth lowest level on record.”

The Affordable Care Act allowed 8.7 million individuals to gain coverage in 2014 compared to 2013. As a result, the insured share of the population increased from 86.0 percent in 2013 to 88.8 percent in 2014, the highest share since 1987.

Overall, health care spending grew 1.2 percentage points faster than the overall economy in 2014, resulting in a 0.2 percentage-point increase in the health spending share of the gross domestic product- from 17.3 percent to 17.5 percent. In the decade prior to the ACA (2000-2009), health care spending grew by an average of 6.9 percent annually, 2.8 percentage points faster than the GDP.

“Today’s report reminds us that we must remain vigilant in focusing on delivering better health care outcomes, which leads to smarter spending, particularly as costs increase in key care areas, like prescription drug costs,” added Slavitt.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: CMS Releases 2014 National Health Expenditures