July 19, 2012 — Health spending in May 2012 grew by just 3.8% compared to May 2011, continuing a trend of about 4% annual growth since 2009. Health-care prices in May 2012 were 2% higher than in May 2011, ticking up a tenth from April. On a 12-month moving average basis, price growth is lower now than at any time since January 1999.
A rise in June of only 13,000 health-sector jobs aligns with slow price and spending growth. This increase contrasts sharply with the May growth in health-care employment of 33,000 and is well below the 24-month average of 25,000. With total payroll job growth of only 80,000 in June, the health care share of total employment reached another all-time high of 10.8%, representing nearly one in nine U.S. jobs.
"Our analysis continues to show stable health spending growth hovering around the 4% mark, and this 3½-year trend is entirely unprecedented," said Dr. Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Center for Sustainable Health Spending. "As a result, health spending as a share of GDP has held steady at about 18% over this same period and, were it not for disappointing GDP growth, could actually be falling."
At 18% percent in April 2012, the health spending share of GDP is just below the all-time high of 18.1% in June 2011. Per capita health care utilization grew at 0.9% year over year in May and is averaging 1.1% growth for the last 12 months and 1.3% growth over the last 6 months.