Healthcare spending stays at historic low as jobs rise

Overall healthcare expenditures and prices in the United States continued their relatively slow growth rate, part of a sustained pattern suggesting that the sector's overall spending rates are coming down, according to a new report from the Altarum Institute released Thursday.

In April, prices rose 1.9 percent compared to April 2011. The 14-year-low price growth of 1.8 percent occurred in February 2012, according to the report. Meanwhile, spending grew 3.9 percent year-to-year between April 2011 and April 2012, down from the 4 percent rate reported in March 2012.

The slow growth in prices and spending contradicts job growth rates. The industry added about 33,000 new healthcare jobs in May 2012, significantly above the long-term average of 25,000 positions per month, ThirdAge noted.

"Our analysis suggests there may be a true downward trend to health spending in this country," Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Center for Sustainable Health Spending, said in a statement. "But it's not time to celebrate. We don't know the cause of this decline, and health job growth is at odds with the low spending. Something's got to give--either spending grows, job growth slows or wages in the health industry decline," he said.

To learn more:
- here's the Altarum Institute report (.pdf) and statement
- read the ThirdAge article