Hospitals And Health Plans See The Future Very Differently

Businessmen holding arrows next to dollar symbol.i i

Pablo Blasberg/Ikon Images/Corbis

Businessmen holding arrows next to dollar symbol.

Analysts who fear health spending is accelerating got plenty of evidence in Wall Street’s second-quarter results to support their thesis. But so did folks who hope spending is still under control.

Now everybody’s trying to sort out the mixed message.

The answer matters because deficit debates and affordability concerns revolve around forecasts that health spending will speed up as the economy revives. National health spending rose only 3.7 percent in 2012, the most recent year for complete results.

If costs don’t rise, the future looks better for consumers, employers and taxpayers.

President Obama said eight million people signed up for health coverage through new insurance exchanges.

To hear hospitals tell it — based on earning reports issued over the last two weeks — we might be heading back toward the painful 8 percent annual increases of the early 2000s.

Thanks to expanded coverage from the Affordable Care Act that began in January, “We have seen higher utilization rates than maybe we originally anticipated,” William Rutherford, chief financial officer at the hospital chain HCA Holdings, told

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