December 2023 Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs

January 04, 2024

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 December 2023 briefs.

New CMS data indicate national health spending grew by 4.1% in 2022

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the official estimates of national health spending for 2022 on December 13, indicating that health spending grew by 4.1% in 2022. We have incorporated these estimates into our December spending brief.
  • In October 2023, national health spending grew by 6.0%, year over year, and represents 17.4% of GDP.
  • Nominal GDP in October 2023 was 5.4% higher than in October 2022, and grew 0.6 percentage points slower than health spending.
  • Personal health care spending growth in October was 7.7%, year over year, and continues to be dominated by growth in utilization rather than increases in prices.
  • Year-over-year spending on home health care (13.5%) grew fastest in October, followed by prescription drug spending (12.3%), while spending on hospital care increased the least (6.5%) among major categories.

Increases in utilization continue to outpace health care price growth

  • The overall Health Care Price Index (HCPI) increased by 2.9% year over year in November, matching October’s slightly revised growth rate from a month prior.
  • Economywide inflation slowed in November, with year-over-year growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) slowing to 3.1% and growth in the Producer Price Index (PPI) falling to 0.9%.
  • Among the major health care categories, prices for dental care (4.4%), home health care (4.3%), and nursing home care (4.0%) grew the fastest, while physician and clinical services (0.4%) price growth was the slowest.
  • Price growth for hospital services in November (3.0%) was slightly above the overall HCPI and was driven mostly by private insurance price growth (4.5%) and Medicare price growth (2.9%).
  • Our implicit measure of health care utilization growth fell slightly to 4.8% year over year in October, but remained above the 12-month average rate of 4.2%.
  • The fastest utilization growth among health care categories occurred in prescription drugs (9.2%) and physician services (7.8%), while nursing home care (3.3%) and dental services (2.4%) utilization growth were the slowest.

Health care job growth matched its 12-month peak in November

  • In November, the healthcare sector added 76,800 jobs, tying July for most jobs added in a month over the past year.
  • November’s health care job growth was led by growth in ambulatory care settings, which added 35,800 jobs, and hospitals, which added 23,700 jobs.
  • Nursing and residential care facilities added 17,300 jobs in November, with modest growth in nursing homes (5,700 jobs) and more substantial growth in other nursing and residential care settings (11,600 jobs).
  • The economy added 199,000 jobs in November, below the 12-month average of 232,600. The unemployment rate decreased marginally to 3.7%.
  • Health care wage growth in October 2023 was 3.7% year over year, somewhat below the total private sector wage growth of 4.0%.
  • Wage growth in health care settings was highest in nursing and residential care, at 4.7% year over year in October 2023, followed by hospitals at 4.0% and ambulatory care settings at 3.2%.

Experts

Corey Rhyan
Research Director, Health Economics and Policy
George Miller
Fellow and Research Team Leader
Stephan McCall
Long-Term Care Senior Analyst