Annual increases in the nation’s health care spending have significantly fallen in recent years, but that trend is longer than commonly believed, and it isn’t yet clear if the trend is permanent, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

Annual per capita health spending rose by an average of 7.4 percent between 1980 and 2009, but the rate during the last decade of that period was 5.9 percent. From 2009 through 2011, the average rate fell to 3.1 percent.

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