Healthcare pricing trends down, spending up slightly

Healthcare prices and spending continued modest growth during the first month of 2016, according to data accumulated by the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

Overall, healthcare prices were up 1.6 percent in January compared to January 2015. That is up from an annualized increase of 1.3 percent that was experienced in December 2015. Hospital price growth was an annual 1.2 percent clip, down from the 1.5 percent rate in December.

Healthcare spending presented a slightly different picture. Overall spending was up 4.9 percent in January 2016 compared to January 2015. That's compared to a 4.5 percent increase year-over-year in December 2015. However, that is far below the nearly 7 percent annual increases reported in February of last year.

Spending growth on hospital services was particularly muted. It increased 4.9 percent this January compared to January 2015, at which point it was increasing at a 6.5 percent annual clip.

Hospital spending accounted for 32 percent of all annual healthcare expenditures. Physician and clinical services were second, at 20 percent.

The spending and pricing trends were fairly robust through the first half of 2015, but began to moderate in late summer.

"Health spending growth in 2015 was considerably higher than the previous six years, yet it decelerated throughout the year, indicating that the 2015 surge was temporary," said Charles Roehrig, founding director of the Altarum center in a statement.

Temple University economics professor Tom E. Getzen predicted in early 2015 that moderate price increases and spending in the healthcare sector would be a fairly permanent state of affairs.

To learn more:
- read the Altarum Institute statement 
- check out the prices brief (.pdf)
- here's the spending brief (.pdf)