The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week released its annual report on national health care expenditures, for 2008, and at a glance the news looked good. Health care spending in 2008 increased 4.4 percent while health insurance premiums grew just 3.1 percent, the slowest rate of increase found in many years. Despite the declining growth in spending, the rate of increase was nearly double growth in the GDP, a key measure of the overall economy.

The results show that the growth rate in health care spending is not sustainable. While Congress wrestles with how to combine the Senate and House health care reform bills into one single bill that can pass both chambers, the business community and others continue to try to persuade Congress that health care reform needs to include a long-term strategy, currently missing, to reduce the growth of health care costs.