Health care spending in the U.S. grew at less than half the pre-recession level for the third straight year, as employers shifted more costs to strapped workers and state governments limited payouts for the poor.

Spending on hospital visits, medications and other care grew 3.9 percent to $2.7 trillion in 2011, matching the slowest growth in 52 years of record keeping, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a report yesterday in the journal Health Affairs. Growth was close to 8 percent before the U.S. entered an 18-month recession in December 2007.

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