CMS Says Health Spending Growth Has Slowed and Azar Speaks

By Shannon Firth, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today

WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said “Medicare for All” will never work because physicians won’t participate. And in other news, health spending topped $3.5 trillion last year, but growth is still slower than the previous two years, according to a new report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS: Health Spending Growth Slowed to 3.9% in 2017

National health spending rose 3.9% in 2017 — a slower growth rate than the previous two years — mainly due to a slowdown in use and intensity of hospital care, physician and clinical services, and prescription drugs, CMS said Thursday.

Spending reached $3.5 trillion, but grew more slowly than in 2016, when it increased by 4.8%, or 2015, when it grew by 5.8%, according to Anne Martin, lead author of the report and an economist in the National Health Statistics Group at CMS’s Office of the Actuary, who spoke on a phone call with reporters. The 2017 health spending growth of 3.9% is lower than the 4.2% increase the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2017; healthcare’s share of the GDP was 17.9%, similar to 2016.

The slowing growth rate compared with the last two years “is a pleasant surprise, in part because as the economy improves you worry that one of the unintended consequences… is that we might see an increase in spending, but that doesn’t appear to be happening,” Gail Wilensky, PhD, who served as CMS administrator under President George H.W. Bush, said in a phone interview. “It is especially promising as we’re continuing a 20-year cycle of having baby boomers age into Medicare,” although a single year of decrease doesn’t necessarily mean a trend, added Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project HOPE, in Bethesda, Maryland.

More Competition Would Be Good for Healthcare, Says Azar

Medicare for All’ has a fatal flaw, according to Azar: “It depends on paying providers’ Medicare rates.”

Azar, speaking at an event here sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, was asked his opinion about allowing non-disabled people ages <65 the ability to “buy into” Medicare in order to give them another option for health insurance. “The challenge of the Medicare buy-in is that it is effectively one of the many iterations of ‘Medicare for All’ — it hinges on the notion of paying all providers what Medicare pays doctors and hospitals,” he said.

“Medicare underpays providers right now compared to the competitive market. If you allow this buy-in, or ‘Medicare for All,’ with access to lower Medicare rates, you will crowd out and cause the complete and utter destruction of the employer-sponsored health insurance system in the United States… There is simply no way private-sector insurance could compete against that, and it would be completely destructive to hospitals and doctors.”

Under such a system, “better hospitals and doctors opt out, and they say, ‘I’m not part of that system; I won’t take it,’ and seniors will suffer because seniors don’t have access,” he added. “It seems [superficially] appealing until you get to the mechanics of why does one want to do it, and it brings the whole system crashing down.”

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  1. I see one of the problems is there are no longer an independent physician office. They all now belong to a conglomerate of physicians and clinics large and small no matter where you go. The little doctors office is now gone where you know the doctor personally or grew up with his or her kids. They’re all now LLC health care providers who all of them, live off insurance claims.
    Every now and then some of them get caught gaming the Medicare system.
    Health care in America is a farce no matter what. It’s all about money, profit and bonuses for the CEO.

  2. Any real student of history knows the meanings of Staff of Hermes Caduceus ancient Babylonian mythology/astrological symbol of commerce (as it has nothing to do with Hippocrates i.e. healing arts is a stretch imo w/ two snakes of duality principle good/evil/life/death) that protected liars, gamblers, thieves, merchants, messengers et al) & Rod of Asclepius (single Snake & Greek God of Medicine & healing NOT COMMERCE) origins. That hasn’t changed in some 2,000+ years just suppressed knowledge. Criteria’s, costs vs life expectancy, contributions to the system, health industry jobs are all factored into the Socialized Medicine Commerce paradigm which is really a integral part of the Corporate Fascism paradigm system being foisted in Americans. It’s all about control on the Ant Farm. Control the Sea you control the Fish that must swim in it. Nothing new under the Sun. American people are constantly lied to that causes more chaos intentionally. Enjoyed the read & contents thanks.

  3. A Trump appointee speaking at the American Enterprise Institute. Hardly need to read the article to know a massive quantity of BS will follow. Doctors and hospitals will not opt out of Medicare for all in large numbers because their waiting rooms will be empty. Note that there was no mention whatever about providing medical coverage for the working folks who have no employer medical insurance but make too much for Medicaid.

    • ethanallen, As I have mentioned in earlier articles….Azar was not a viable choice. Just another Trump appointee with Trump paying someone back for something Azar has or will do for him. Nothing like having a former pharmaceutical lobbyist and drug company executive in charge of drug issues.

    • But….we got money for wars, 800+ bases everywhere and for planes that can’t fly and besides we’re not done with regime change in the middle east so all those working poor people will just have to wait it out.
      Just don’t get sick in America……

  4. what garbage.
    every other industrialized country in the world provides single payer….

    taking the profit out of insurance more then compensates for increasing providers payments….and the scare tactic that somehow seniors wont get health care is laughingly transparent.

    medicare for all is coming….it should have been done by obama…but the democrats are just as corrupt as the repiglicons.

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