Business briefs: Higher growth seen in health care spending

  • Updated: June 24, 2014 - 7:54 PM

Higher growth seen in health care spending

Growth in health care spending is expected to tick upward next year, in part because consumers who delayed treatment during the economic downturn are now seeking care they postponed, according to a report. The report, from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, forecasts medical cost growth of 6.8 percent overall in 2015, compared with the institute’s estimate of 6.5 percent for this year. The projected increase is modest compared with the double-digit annual increases in medical inflation commonly seen before the economic downturn. But the rate of growth had been slowing in the past five years, said Ceci Connolly, managing director of the institute, the research arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ health consulting practice.

Consumer confidence index edges up again

U.S. consumers are more confident about the economy than they have been in more than six years. The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 85.2 this month from a revised 82.2 in May, the private research group said. The June figure is the highest since January 2008, a month after the Great Recession officially began. More Americans are optimistic about business conditions and the outlook for jobs, though fewer expect their incomes will grow over the next six months. The index compiled by the Conference Board shows that confidence has been rising steadily since bottoming at 25.3 in February 2009. But it still hasn’t returned to full health. Before the recession, the index usually topped 90.

Walgreen withdraws its financial outlook

Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore retailer, withdrew its financial goals for fiscal year 2016 as it considers buying the remainder of Alliance Boots GmbH and possibly moving overseas to lower its tax bill. Walgreen purchased 45 percent of Zug, Switzerland-based Alliance Boots in 2012 for $6.7 billion, with the option to gain full control of the U.K.’s largest drugstore three years later. The companies are still deciding the timing and future structure of a combined company, which could affect its tax rate, Greg Wasson, chief executive of Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen, said on a conference call.

Fed gives Citigroup, other banks more time

The Federal Reserve said it is giving Citigroup Inc. and three other big banks another six months to amend their capital plans, changes required after they fell short in the Fed’s annual “stress tests.” The Fed said it is extending to Jan. 5 the deadline for the third-largest U.S. bank and the U.S. divisions of Britain’s HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as for Spain’s Banco Santander.

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