Health Sector Trend Report, December 2018 

Trend Reports | January 04, 2019 | Paul Hughes-Cromwick

This quarterly report examines current trends in U.S. health care spending, prices, utilization, and employment. Highlights include:

  • Upward revisions to the level of health spending for 2016 and lower-than-expected growth in health spending (below 4%) for 2017, as reflected in newly-released Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates of National Health Expenditures (NHE) through 2017.
  • The first three quarters of 2018 show total health spending growing by 4.8%, driven by a modest increase in services spending growth and larger increases in prescription drug and administrative cost growth over 2017.
  • Removing the effects of drug ad administrative spending, 2018 total health spending growth would be 4.1%, close to the 2017 rate of 3.9%.
  • Health care prices grew by 1.8% in Q3 2018 and by 1.9% for the first three quarters of 2018.
  • Health sector job growth has stabilized at around 2.0% since Q2 2017.

About Altarum's Quarterly Health Sector Trend Reports

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Altarum provides a quarterly analysis of key trends in health care spending, prices, utilization, and employment. These reports make direct use of the Quarterly Services Survey (QSS), the timeliest source of detailed, survey-based spending information for health care services, which account for more than 70% of national health spending. Each quarter, when new QSS data are released (March, June, September, and December), we publish this report.

These trend reports are related to, but distinct from, Altarum's Health Sector Economic Indicators briefs, which are issued every month.

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