An extraordinary slowing of growth in the use of health care goods and services contributed to a second year of slow health spending growth in 2010, analysts from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported in the most-read Health Affairs article of 2012. To celebrate the New Year, Health Affairs is making this piece and all the articles on the journal’s 2012 most-read list freely available to all readers for two weeks.

Every year, Health Affairs publishes a retrospective analysis of National Health Expenditures by members of the CMS Office of the Actuary. The next installment in the partnership, covering health spending in 2011, will appear next Monday in our January 2013 issue, which will also include a “People and Places” feature on the work of retiring Chief Actuary Richard Foster and his staff. Health Affairs also publishes annual health spending projections for the coming decade by the Office of the Actuary; the projections for 2011-2021 rank third on last year’s top-ten list.

Second on the list is a look at the health literacy aspects of three major health policy initiatives: the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, and the Plain Writing Act of 2010. “The successful implementation of the types of health literacy system adaptations noted in this article can help break the cycle of crisis care and move health literacy from the margins to the mainstream of health care practices,” wrote Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, and a distinguished cast of coauthors.

The Health Affairs 2012 top ten also includes an article indicating that giving physicians electronic access to patients’ prior imaging and lab results does not deter additional tests; Amy Berman’s Narrative Matters essay about accessing palliative care after being diagnosed with terminal cancer; and an examination of the status of Massachusetts’ landmark health reforms. Additional top-ten articles discuss growing differences in life expectancy by race and income; survey results showing that physicians are not always honest with their patients; whether higher U.S. cancer spending relative to Europe is “worth it”; and the potential beneficial effects on health and health costs of a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

The full list of the most-read Health Affairs articles for 2012 appears below. The list is based on online viewing statistics and covers all articles published in 2012.

  1. Growth In US Health Spending Remained Slow In 2010; Health Share Of Gross Domestic Product Was Unchanged From 2009
    by Anne B. Martin, David Lassman, Benjamin Washington, Aaron Catlin, and the National Health Expenditure Accounts Team; January 2012 issue
  2. New Federal Policy Initiatives To Boost Health Literacy Can Help The Nation Move Beyond The Cycle Of Costly ‘Crisis Care’
    by Howard K. Koh, Donald M. Berwick, Carolyn M. Clancy, Cynthia Baur, Cindy Brach, Linda M. Harris, and Eileen G. Zerhusen; January 18, 2012 Web First
  3. National Health Expenditure Projections: Modest Annual Growth Until Coverage Expands And Economic Growth Accelerates
    by Sean P. Keehan, Gigi A. Cuckler, Andrea M. Sisko, Andrew J. Madison, Sheila D. Smith, Joseph M. Lizonitz, John A. Poisal, and Christian J. Wolfe; June 12, 2012 Web First
  4. Giving Office-Based Physicians Electronic Access To Patients’ Prior Imaging And Lab Results Did Not Deter Ordering Of Tests
    by Danny McCormick, David H. Bor, Stephanie Woolhandler, and David U. Himmelstein; March 2012 issue
  5. Living Life In My Own Way—And Dying That Way As Well
    by Amy Berman; April 2012 issue
  6. Massachusetts Health Reforms: Uninsurance Remains Low, Self-Reported Health Status Improves As State Prepares To Tackle Costs
    by Sharon K. Long, Karen Stockley, and Heather Dahlen; January 25, 2012 Web First
  7. Differences In Life Expectancy Due To Race And Educational Differences Are Widening, And Many May Not Catch Up
    by S. Jay Olshansky, Toni Antonucci, Lisa Berkman, Robert H. Binstock, Axel Boersch-Supan, John T. Cacioppo, Bruce A. Carnes, Laura L. Carstensen, Linda P. Fried, Dana P. Goldman, James Jackson, Martin Kohli, John Rother, Yuhui Zheng, and John Rowe; August 2012 issue
  8. Survey Shows That At Least Some Physicians Are Not Always Open Or Honest With Patients
    by Lisa I. Iezzoni, Sowmya R. Rao, Catherine M. DesRoches, Christine Vogeli, and Eric G. Campbell; February 2012 issue
  9. An Analysis Of Whether Higher Health Care Spending In The United States Versus Europe Is ‘Worth It’ In The Case Of Cancer
    by Tomas Philipson, Michael Eber, Darius N. Lakdawalla, Mitra Corral, Rena Conti, and Dana P. Goldman; April 2012 issue
  10. A Penny-Per-Ounce Tax On Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Would Cut Health And Cost Burdens Of Diabetes
    by Y. Claire Wang, Pamela Coxson, Yu-Ming Shen, Lee Goldman, and Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo; January 2012 issue