- The aggregate price of acute-care hospital care for Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers and other payers (including the uninsured) dropped 0.1% from January 2014 to January 2015, according to new federal data. That drop represents a first since such data has been collected.
- The data showed a 2.3% decline in Medicare rates for hospital care and the weakest 12-month price growth (1.6%) for private plans and other payers since July 1998. Medicaid prices declined 0.1%.
- Prices for goods and services in hospitals grew by only 0.9% in December of 2014 compared to December of 2013—the lowest rate since 1999, according to a new report from the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. Prices for the healthcare sector at larger in December were 1.8% higher than in December 2013.
Senior health economist Paul Hughes-Cromwick called the slowed growth the result of a "gigantic arm wrestling contest" in which the "government and insurers are winning over the providers." In other words, Hughes-Cromwick suggests, increased competition in the health insurance marketplace and increasing cost-control regulations from the federal government have done exactly what they were supposed to: Put a downward pressure on prices.
The use of the word "winning" implies that that this downward cost pressure is hurting hospitals, however, a suggestion that jobs data appears to refute. Despite declining admission rates, hospitals added 9,600 jobs and physician offices added 13,400 jobs over the last six months, according to the report. That 213,000 total represents the biggest gain in the sector in nearly 25 years. When taken in conjunction with sector job growth, this report paints a pretty positive picture for systemic cost changes that aren't strapping hospitals.