Near record low price growth in U.S. healthcare sector

Aug. 27, 2013 at 8:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. healthcare prices grew 1.1 percent in July compared to July 2012, only a tenth above the May rate, the lowest since January 1990, a non-profit group says.

The data comes from the monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators briefs released by Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

The 12-month moving average -- at 1.6 percent -- represents a new low for the data, the Altarum Institute said. National health expenditures grew 4.3 percent in June, and spending growth averaged 4.1 percent for the first half of the year, barely above the record low levels seen annually since 2009.

The share of the U.S. economy devoted to healthcare is now averaging 17.4 percent in the post-recession period, and Altarum estimates a reading of 17.5 percent for June 2013.

Healthcare employment rose by only 2,500 jobs in July, well below the 24-month average of 22,000, and the lowest increase since July 2003. Ambulatory care settings added jobs, but hospitals lost 13,000 jobs over the past three months.

"The benchmark revisions affecting data going all the way back to 1929 leave a lot to digest, but our indicators show near record low price growth, continued restrained national health spending, and new health employment data at long last reflecting the health expenditure slowdown," said Ani Turner, deputy director of the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

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