Growth in Health Jobs Down; Spending Up Due To ACA; Healthcare Price Hikes At All Time Low

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) — Growth in health care job creation remained low in February, with a national gain of 9,500 jobs, according to figures from the Ann Arbor healthcare consulting organization Altarum Institute. Meanwhile, the newly covered under the Affordable Care Act drove health spending up nationwide, while price increases stayed at an all-time low.

The third straight month of meager growth resulted in the lowest three-month gain (17,700) on record. Hospitals, the largest health sector employer, shed 10,000 jobs over this three-month period.

Meanwhile, health spending growth has been trending upward, moving above 4 percent in the latter half of 2013 and, then, with the initial influx of newly insured, to an increase of 5.4 percent in January 2014 over January 2013. The health spending share of GDP was 17.4 percent in December 2013, essentially unchanged from what it was when the recession ended in June 2009.

In January 2014, health care prices rose 1 percent above January 2013, equal to the all-time low for this figure, first hit in August 2013. The 12-month moving average of 1.2 percent is a new all-time low. Low price growth by virtually every component of health care prices, but particularly for hospitals — which at 1.1 percent is its lowest reading since September 1998 — is keeping the aggregate index contained.

These data come from the monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators
briefs released by Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health
Spending. The full report is at http://www.altarum.org/HealthIndicators.

“We are expecting a jump in health spending in 2014 because of the
projected numbers of previously uninsured individuals who will gain
coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” said Charles Roehrig, director of
the Center. “For January, the impact is estimated at about one percentage
point, pushing the rate of increase from 4.4 percent to 5.4 percent. Altarum officials noted that this is a preliminary estimate that will become more precise as the year progresses.”

Altarum offers research and consulting to the health care industry.

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