The Altarum Institute has a Center for Sustainable Health Spending and it regularly analyzes health spending, health care prices and health industry hiring. The reports provide both a snapshot of current status of health spending and long-term trend tracking. In addition, the reports give a comparison to growth in the overall economy and overall price growth. (Altarum Reports) Health spending rose 4.6% in nominal terms, to an annualized $3.76 trillion. General economic growth was at the same 4.6%. Nominal health spending has been growing at roughly the same rate for the last year or two and is beginning to show a seasonal pattern in which spending growth is slower at the start of the year and picks up in summer and the fall. Across categories, drug spending rose most quickly, at 8.7%, a substantial uptick from prior months. Nursing home care and home health care both displayed 7% plus growth rates. Physician and hospital care, the largest categories, both experienced more moderate growth rates of around 4%. On the labor side, 27,000 jobs were added in health care in April and 403,000 were added in the last 12 months, for a 2.5% growth rate. 10.8% of all jobs in the United States are in health care.
Health care prices rose 1.5% in April, up from a 1.3% gain in March. Hospitals had a 2% annualized price gain, physicians .7% and drugs .3%. Hospital prices increased at a similar pace for Medicare and private plan patients, while being essentially flat for Medicaid. Nursing home prices rose most swiftly, at 3.8%. In recent months, drugs had been showing a price decline. For comparison, the general consumer price index climbed 2%. For several years now, health prices have increased at a rate close to that of general prices. Given the size of the health industry, prices in that segment are contributing to mild inflation throughout the economy. Taking spending and price growth into account, per capita utilization of services increased by 2.9% in March, up from the 12 month moving average of 2.1%. Home health care, physician services and prescription drugs were the largest contributors to the rise in utilization.
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