Hospital And Doctor Prices Stagnant, But Health Jobs Surge Anyway

ANN ARBOR — The health services industry continues to surge in employment despite flat prices for both hospitals and physician services, according to new research from the Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute.

Altarum’s monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators found that the health services sector added 45,000 jobs in April 2015, continuing the surge that began roughly a year ago. Growth was strong in virtually all subsectors, including hospitals and physician offices.

Over the past six months, health has added 226,000 jobs, the largest such increase in 25 years. On a year-over-year basis, health job growth now comfortably exceeds non-health growth at 2.7 percent versus 2.1 percent.

Health care prices in March 2015 were 1.3 percent higher than in March 2014, but hospital prices rose a scant 0.4 percent, while physician and clinical services prices actually fell 0.6 percent. Prescription drug prices rose 5.7 percent, the second highest reading since February 2002.

Preliminary estimates show that national health spending in March 2015 was 6.8 percent higher than in March 2014. At $3.2 trillion, health spending now represents 18.1 percent of gross domestic product, the first time this share has ever topped 18 percent. Spending in March 2015, year over year, increased in all major categories, with prescription drugs growing the fastest, at 10.7 percent.

“While health employment is up pretty much across the board, hospital hiring is particularly noteworthy,” said Charles Roehrig, director of Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending, which gathers the figures. “In the past nine months, hospital job growth has averaged more than 9,000 per month, in contrast to essentially zero growth during the prior 24 months.”

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Altarum provides research and consulting to the health care industry. It employs almost 400 people at its Ann Arbor headquarters and offices in the Washington, D.C., area; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.

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