Health Care Spending Growth Back below 4 Percent; Nearly One in Nine Jobs Lie in Health Sector

Health Care Spending Growth Back below 4 Percent; Nearly One in Nine Jobs Lie in Health Sector

<0> Altarum InstituteKen Schwartz, 571-733-5709 </0>

National health care spending in February 2013 grew 3.9 percent relative to February 2012, a falling rate that returns it to the record low levels seen annually in 2009 – 2011, and below our estimate of 4.3 percent for 2012. Meanwhile, despite the recent pattern of historically low spending growth, the health sector now accounts for nearly 1 in 9 total U.S. jobs, a new all-time high at 10.74 percent.

While health care price growth rose to 1.7 percent in February 2013 compared to February 2012, two-tenths above the January 2013 reading, this was still the second lowest rate since 1.3 percent growth recorded in December 1997. The 12-month moving average price growth at 1.9 percent in February 2013 is the lowest since the same figure recorded in November 1998.

Health care employment rose by 23,000 jobs in March 2013, barely below the 24-month average of 24,000, but economy-wide employment rose by a disappointing 88,000, well below forecasts of approximately 200,000.

These data come from the April briefs released by Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. The briefs, covering health care spending, utilization, prices, and employment are at www.altarum.org/HealthIndicators.

"Health spending has remained at about 18 percent of gross domestic product since mid-2009, but health employment continues to slowly increase as a share of total employment," said Charles Roehrig, director of the Center. "Expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act should push these figures upward, but an improving economy will push in the other direction as non-health spending and jobs accelerate. We look forward to tracking how these forces play out."

The health spending share of the gross domestic product was steady at 18.0 percent in January 2013, up from 16.4 percent at the start of the recession in December 2007. Implicit per capita health care utilization averaged 1.3 percent growth over the last 12 months.

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