Healthcare spending is at record-low level

Price increases on personal expenditures for healthcare goods and services are at their lowest levels in nearly half a century, reported AHA News Now, but the data has been the subject of debate.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the President's Council for Economic Advisers, noted that prices rose a mere 1.1 percent during the 12 months ending in last May. Krueger attributed the dramatic spending slowdown to hospital and nursing home services, which rose 0.8 percent, and outpatient services, which rose 0.4 percent. Together, they total more than three-quarters of all healthcare expenditures.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it is only the second time since the mid-1960s that the cost of healthcare has risen more slowly than the general rate of inflation.

"A mounting body of research finds that structural changes are driving a substantial part of the recent slowdown in healthcare cost growth, suggesting that the trend may persist," Krueger wrote on the White House website. "Moreover, the fact that the slowdown in cost growth reflects changes in both prices and utilization of medical care--and that the slowdown is apparent in many different aspects of the health care system--further suggests that structural changes are underway."

Despite the analysis made by Krueger, the claims have come under fire from some quarters as part of a defensive tactic to blunt ongoing criticism of the Affordable Care Act, reported Medical Daily.

The Los Angeles Times observed that "the case has strengthened that the slowdown goes beyond a blip in the statistics and represents a significant shift. Now the debate is focused on whether the new law gets credit for the improvement."

To learn more:
- read the AHA News Now article
- check out the Los Angeles Times article
- read Alan Krueger's blog post
- here's the Medical Daily article