Health Spending Growth Below 5% for Fourth Straight Month

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--()--National health spending in February 2016 was 4.8% higher than health spending in February 2015. While this rate is somewhat higher than the 4.5% growth observed in both December 2015 and January 2016, February is the fourth consecutive month in which it has been below 5%. The 4.5% growth rate in December and January was the lowest since March 2014. Health spending has held steady at 18.0% of gross domestic product for the four consecutive months from October 2015 through January 2016. Health spending growth appears to have leveled off, at least temporarily.

Health care prices in February 2016 were 1.7% higher than in February 2015, up from 1.6% in January and the highest rate since September 2014. The February 2016 12­month moving average held at 1.2%. Year-over-year hospital price growth fell to 1.0% from 1.2% in January. Drug price growth rose to 3.4% from 3.0% in January, reclaiming the title as the fastest growing price component. Since June 2014, hospital prices for Medicare, Medicaid, and private pay patients have grown -1.5%, -2.3%, and 4.3%, respectively.

The health sector added 36,800 new jobs in March, consistent with the Q1 2016 average of 39,000 new jobs per month and the Q4 2015 average of 40,000. Hospitals added 10,200 jobs, lower than the Q1 2016 average of 14,000 and the Q4 2015 average of 15,000. Consistent with recent patterns, health jobs grew 3.4% year over year while nonhealth jobs grew 1.8%, increasing the health share of total employment to a new, all-time high of 10.73%.

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

“The growth rate in the services component of health spending is slowing and seems headed back to rates experienced in the years prior to expanded coverage,” said Charles Roehrig, founding director of the center. “On the other hand, the slowing growth rate in spending on prescription drugs was interrupted by a jump in February and remains well above pre-expanded coverage levels. We will look forward to March data on prescription drugs to see if February was an aberration.”

Please see our expanded March Health Sector Trend Report and this Blog by Robert Wood Johnson Sr. Program Officer, Katherine Hempstead.

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 almost 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional offices in the Washington, D.C., area; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.

Contacts

Altarum Institute
Ken Schwartz, 202-772-5062
ken.schwartz@altarum.org

Contacts

Altarum Institute
Ken Schwartz, 202-772-5062
ken.schwartz@altarum.org