Hospital Price Growth Drops Below 1% Even as Health Sector Employment Jumps

February 13, 2015

ANN ARBOR, MI—Health sector employment began 2015 much as it left off in 2014, adding 38,300 new jobs in January 2015, consistent with the 39,000 new jobs per month seen in the fourth quarter of 2014. Over the past 3 months, the health sector has added 127,000 jobs, the largest quarterly increase since January 1990 (which is as far back as our data go). The 6-month gain of 213,000 health jobs was the largest in nearly 25 years. Job growth was particularly strong in hospitals (9,600) and physicians’ offices (13,400).

Health care prices in December 2014 were 1.8% higher than in December 2013, two-tenths of a percentage point above the November rate. Year-over-year hospital prices grew 0.9% in December, a more-than-16-year low. Home health care prices rebounded from their earlier negative growth trend, recording a 1.9% growth rate in December, above the November rate of 1.4%, their highest reading since July 2009. Prescription drug prices rose 6.4%, a growth rate not seen since 1992, well up from 4.6% in November.

Preliminary estimates indicate that national health spending grew by 5.0% in 2014 and by 5.6% in December 2014 compared with December 2013, up significantly from the official 2013 national spending growth rate of 3.6%—the all-time low. The health-spending share of gross domestic product was 17.8% in December, up from 16.0% at the start of the recession in December 2007. Spending in December, year over year, increased in all major categories. Spending on prescription drugs had by far the fastest growth rate, at 13.0%.

These data come from the monthly Health Sector Economic IndicatorsSM briefs released by Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending (www.altarum.org/HealthIndicators).

“This recent surge in health sector hiring suggests that the acceleration in health services spending observed in the third quarter is likely to have continued into the fourth,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the Center. “New evidence will come from the Quarterly Services Survey data to be released on March 11. The March issue of our new monthly Health Sector Trends Report will incorporate this information to provide a complete picture of health spending for 2014.”

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The highlights video and complete monograph from the Center for Sustainable Health Spending’s 2014 Symposium on Sustainable U.S. Health Spending: The Quest for Value are available here: www.altarum.org/cshs/meetings. The symposium speakers included Stuart Altman, Paul Ginsburg, Peter Orszag, Uwe Reinhardt, and Alice Rivlin.

Contact Information
Ken Schwartz
202-772-5062
ken.schwartz@altarum.org

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Altarum Institute (www.altarum.org) integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs over 450 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional offices in Portland, Maine, and the Washington, D.C., area.

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