Healthcare pricing continues to grow at snail's pace

Healthcare prices grew by just 1.1 percent last month when compared to July 2012, according to data released by the Altarum Institute--inflation even slower than the economy as a whole.

The overall moving average for price inflation for the past year has been 1.6 percent--the lowest Altarum officials have reported since they began tracking nearly a quarter of a century ago. By comparison, the overall consumer price index shows about 2 percent annual inflation.

Hospital prices rose 1.6 percent in July. Although that's up when compared to the overall trend, it is far lower than the 2.8 percent recorded in July 2012. Prices for physician services inched up just 0.3 percent, while prices for home healthcare services actually declined.

"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 for Altarum's Center for Sustainable Health Spending, in a statement.

Altarum noted that depressed reimbursement trends from Medicare and Medicaid contributed to the low price increases. According to Benefitspro, the impending impact from the Affordable Care Act meant the hospital price trend was unlikely to change in the near future.

The overall consumer price index for medical expenditures rose just 1.9 percent, lower than the overall consumer price index of 2 percent.

Meanwhile, healthcare expenditures nationwide increased 2.9 percent in June, down from the 12-month trend of 4.3 percent, according to Altarum.

To learn more:
- read the Altarum pricing report (.pdf)
- here's the Altarum spending report (.pdf)
- check out the Benefitspro article