Hospital spending rises as price plateaus

Healthcare prices grew over the past year at the slowest rate since the late 1990s, although hospital expenditures increased at a healthy clip, according to data collected from the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

Prices rose only 1.9 percent between October 2010 and October 2011. "Hospital, physician services, nursing home, and home healthcare are driving the low price inflation," the report said. It estimates current healthcare inflation is close to 2 percent and in some instances the Consumer Price Index.

Since the onset of the severe recession in December 2007, healthcare prices have grown 9.5 percent, compared to a 6.6 percent increase for overall prices.

Meanwhile, spending on healthcare services jumped 5 percent between October 2010 and October 2011, reaching $2.77 trillion. That represents 18.1 percent of the gross domestic product, versus 16.3 percent when the recession began.

Spending on hospital services reached $877 billion in October 2011, and represents 32 percent of total healthcare expenditures. It grew at a rate of 6.5 percent over the past 12 months, far more than nursing homes, prescription drugs or other segments.

To learn more:
- here's the spending report
- read the pricing report