April 9, 2014

ANN ARBOR, MI.—National Health Expenditures (NHE) in February 2014 grew 6.7% over February 2013, the highest rate since March 2007, just prior to the recession, which officially began in December 2007. While governmental data attribute a portion of the growth in January and February 2014 to newly insured individuals under the Affordable Care Act, much of the acceleration in growth occurred during 2013, prior to ACA’s expanded coverage. Growth during the first quarter of 2013 was less than 4% but, by the fourth quarter, it had risen to 5.3%. The health spending share of GDP reached an all-time high of 17.7% in January, the most recent month for which GDP data are available.

Health care gained 19,400 jobs in March 2014, and February was revised up by 8,600, for a first quarter average gain of 15,000 jobs per month, just off the 2013 pace of 17,000.  Hospitals reversed recent reported losses to gain a modest 4,000 jobs, while nursing and residential care facilities lost 4,100 jobs. The health share of total employment, at 10.62%, is below the all-time high of 10.66%, hit in September 2011.

Health care prices in February 2014 were 1.2% higher than in February 2013, up from its historic low of 1.0% January. Yet the February 2014 12-month moving average, at 1.2%, represents a new all-time low for our data.

These data come from the monthly Health Sector Economic IndicatorsSM briefs released by Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

“The acceleration in health spending growth during 2013 suggests that the long, slow downward effects of the recession on health spending have finally run their course,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the Center. “Since health care price growth remains historically low, the acceleration in spending seems to be driven primarily by utilization, though we have yet to see corroborating evidence.”

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Sarah Litton
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Altarum Institute's (www.altarum.org) mission is to create a better, more sustainable future for all Americans by applying research-based and field-tested solutions that transform our systems of health and health care. Altarum employs over 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional offices in Portland, Maine; Silver Spring, MD; Rockville, MD; and Washington, D.C.


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