April 2023 Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs

April 21, 2023

Altarum's monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators (HSEI) briefs analyze the most recent data available on health sector spending, prices, employment, and utilization. Support for this work is provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Below are highlights from the April 2023 briefs.

Private payer health care services price growth hits a new record high

  • The overall Health Care Price Index (HCPI) increased by 3.1% year over year in March, up from the slightly revised 2.8% growth rate observed a month prior in February.
  • Prices for health care services paid for by private insurance increased by 4.5% in March (up from 4.1% in February and 3.5% in January), while Medicare price growth was flat year over year.
  • Economywide inflation slowed again in March, as overall CPI growth fell from 6.0% to 5.0% and PPI price growth fell from 4.9% to 2.7%. Economywide services (less healthcare) inflation fell for the first time since July 2021 (from 8.3% in February to 8.0% in March). 
  • Among the major health care categories, prices for nursing home care (7.0%) grew fastest, followed by dental services (6.8%), while physician services (0.9%) price growth was the slowest.
  • Our implicit measure of health care utilization growth increased again in February, up 3.9% year over year. Prescription drug utilization (7.1%) and home health care utilization (5.1%) increased most last month.

 National health spending is holding at 17.2% of GDP

  • In February 2023, national health spending grew by 4.9%, year over year. Neglecting government subsidies, spending on personal health care increased by 7.0%, but that growth was dampened by a decline in federal government support, especially to public health activities.
  • Neglecting government subsidies, spending on nursing home care (10.6%) and prescription drugs (9.5%) grew fastest in February, while physician and clinical services spending increased the least (4.3%).
  • Health spending in February 2023 accounted for 17.2% of nominal GDP and has hovered around that rate since August 2022.
  • Nominal GDP in February 2023 was 7.3% higher than in February 2022, as GDP growth continues to outpace health spending growth.

Health care job growth continues modestly across all major settings of care

  • Health care added 33,900 jobs in March 2023, somewhat less than the roughly 54,000 jobs per month that were added in the first two months of 2023 and the 12-month average of 51,000 jobs.
  • March health care job growth was seen in all major settings of care, with ambulatory settings adding 15,000, hospitals adding 10,900 and nursing and residential care facilities adding 8,000 jobs. 
  • The economy added 236,000 jobs in March, somewhat lower than the growth seen in January and February. In the first quarter of 2023, the economy added an average of 345,000 new jobs per month, equal to the 12-month average of 345,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped slightly to 3.5%.
  • Wage growth in health care has been declining since mid-2022 and has been below economywide wage growth since January 2023. In February 2023, health care wages grew by 4.3% year over year while total private sector wages grew by 4.6%. Wage growth varied by setting of care, growing by 3.8% in ambulatory care settings, and 4.7% in both hospitals and nursing and residential care.


Corey Rhyan
Research Director, Health Economics and Policy
George Miller
Fellow and Research Team Leader