ANN ARBOR — New analysis shows that health care spending in the U.S. in 2011 grew at one of the slowest rates in 50 years, according to the February Health Sector Economic Indicators briefs released today by the Center for Sustainable Health Spending at the Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute.

Altarum’s reports provide the first look at full-year 2011, showing health spending at $2.71 trillion. Spending was up 4.4 percent from 2010 — the third slowest rate of growth since national health expenditures have been tracked. The health spending share of gross domestic product was 18.1 percent in December 2011, up from 16.4 percent at the start of the recession (December 2007), but down slightly from the all-time high of 18.2 percent in June 2011.

“With historically low health price inflation, low utilization growth and some signs of lower health employment growth, we could be entering an era of extended health care cost control,” said center director Dr. Charles Roehrig.

Altarum’s data indicate that health care price inflation was only 2.1 percent for all of 2011, the lowest annual figure since 1998, when it stood at 2.0 percent. Health employment in January 2012 rose by 31,000, well above the 2-year average of 22,000 jobs and contrasting with weak employment growth seen in the last quarter of 2011. At 10.73 percent of all jobs in January 2012, the health employment share is fractionally lower than the all-time high of 10.74 percent in October 2011.

The complete set of briefs — covering health care spending, utilization, prices and employment — can be viewed at To receive email notification regarding the monthly release of Health Sector Economic Indicators, please visit

Altarum Institute ( integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, with additional offices in the Washington, D.C., area; Sacramento, Calif.; Atlanta, Ga.; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.


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