Minn. health care spending grew at slower rate in recent years

A Minnesota Department of Health study finds health care spending in the state continued at a slow 2 percent growth rate from 2010 to 2011.

That compares to an annual average pace of growth over the past decade of about 6 percent. The state's health care spending rate was half the nation's rate of nearly 4 percent in 2011.

State health economist Stefan Gildemeister called the growth rate remarkably low. But he said the data raise the question of whether such slow growth in health care spending is a short-lived.

"Is that a two-three year trend or have we accomplished something remarkable where we really have a structural change in health care spending?" he asked. "That's a question, an empirical question that we have to wait to answer until the economy is fully recovered."

The study also notes that health care spending per person in Minnesota in 2011 of $7,145 was lower than the national per-person cost of $8,175. Health care spending also accounted for a smaller share of Minnesota's economy at 13.6 percent. In contrast, health care spending represents 16.9 percent of the nation's economy.

Gildemeister said there are likely many reasons for the low growth rate, including lingering effects of the recession and a shift towards consumers paying a greater share of the cost of their health care.

From 2010 to 2011, health care spending in Minnesota increased 2 percent to $38.2 billion. That compares to 1.7 percent increase to $37.5 billion from 2009 to 2010.

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