Health Expenditures Ease a Bit; Drugs Lead Cost-of-Care Increase

Thanks to lower-than-anticipated spending for Medicare, national health expenses will grow more slowly in the coming decade than previously thought. Still, the nation's health care bill is expected to double to nearly $2.2 trillion by 2008.$2.2 trillion by 2008.

The Health Care Financing Administration predicts that Medicare spending will rise only 4.5 percent from 1997 to 2000, in comparison to its previous 5.1-percent forecast. The feds credit the improvement to their antifraud campaign and to the Balanced Budget Act.

Private-sector spending is expected to grow more quickly — 7.3 percent, up from last year's prediction of 6.7 percent. Insurance premiums and prescription-drug costs were cited.

See chart: Health expenses rise, but more gently

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