U.S. health care spending increases only slightly

Americans kept health care spending in check for three years in a row, the government reported Monday, an unusual respite that could linger if the economy stays soft or fade like a mirage if job growth comes roaring back.

The nation’s health care tab stood at $2.7 trillion in 2011, the latest year available, said nonpartisan number crunchers with the Department of Health and Human Services.

That’s 17.9 percent of the economy, which averages out to $8,680 for every man, woman and child, far more than any other economically advanced country spends.

Still, it was the third straight year of historically low increases in the United States. The 3.9 percent increase meant that health care costs grew in line with the overall economy in 2011 instead of surging ahead as they normally have during a recovery.

The respite means President Obama and Congress have a window to ease in tighter cost controls this year, if they can manage to reach a broader agreement on taxes and spending.


Serial killer gets 25 years more in slayings of two

A California serial killer who left a trail of brutalized women’s bodies in his wake was sentenced Monday in New York to an additional 25 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murdering two young women here in the 1970s.

Rodney Alcala said last month he wanted to plead guilty to the two New York murders so he could get back to California, where he was sentenced to death for convictions in five other killings, to pursue an appeal there.

He had complained that his jailers in New York wouldn’t give him access to a laptop computer and legal records.

Family and friends of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover filled the courtroom in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, having waited decades since the losses of their loved ones for this day.

Crilley, 23, was found strangled with a stocking in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover, also 23, was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.

“This kind of case is something I’ve never experienced — hope to never again,” Judge Bonnie Whittner said, choking back tears as she sentenced Alcala.


Mass killing suspect ruled not mentally fit for trial

A judge ruled on Monday that a man accused of killing seven people at a small Christian college last April is not mentally fit for trial.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta temporarily suspended the case against One Goh after two psychiatric evaluations reached the conclusion that Goh suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

Alameda County Assistant Public Defender David Klaus said Goh’s condition causes him to have hallucinations and delusions and distrust people, including those trying to help him.

Goh is charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the shootings at Oikos University in Oakland. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail.