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U.S. health care spending surged to $ 4.1 trillion last year when Congress opened the federal dollar faucet to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on multiple fronts.

A government report released Wednesday said national health spending jumped 9.7 percent in 2020, more than double normal growth rates, with health care accounting for nearly $ 1 in every $ 5 in the economy. The federal government’s share of health spending increased 36 percent.

In particular, this growth was driven not so much by patient care as by federal subsidies to keep hospitals and health care providers paying; funding for the development and deployment of COVID tests, vaccines, treatments and countermeasures; and helping government Medicaid programs grappling with a potential wave of uninsured people in a public health crisis.

“The story that unfolded in 2020 and continues today is unlike anything that has happened in the past 100 years,” says a report by numerical calculators from Medicare and Medicaid Services. Published online in the journal Health Affairs, this report is an annual benchmark for assessing the economic impact of health care.

Last year, when scheduled operations were canceled and telehealth replaced office visits, Congress overwhelmingly approved bipartisan measures that pumped out tens of billions of dollars to keep the private health care system from collapse.

Along with direct federal spending on COVID and Medicaid money for states, the strategy has largely worked, according to economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional non-partisan budgetary office and longtime Republican policy adviser.

“COVID cases have prevented hospitals from having their regular to-do list,” Holz-Eakin said. “Funding from the federal government was really important when other sources just dried up.” The main pivot was a $ 122 billion fund to help healthcare providers, through which hospitals could apply for taxpayer money to compensate for their losses.

“When I look at 2020, it wasn’t perfect, but I think Congress deserves high marks for what it has done,” added Holtz-Eakin.

The $ 4.1 trillion contribution for 2020 represents an increase of approximately $ 365 billion over national health spending in 2019. This amounts to $ 12,530 per person.

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