Healthcare Costs Continue to Climb, but Rate Slows

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 20, 2011

The average per capita cost of healthcare services covered by commercial insurance and Medicare grew 5.77% over the 12 months ending in March 2011, continuing a nearly year-long deceleration of cost growth, Standard & Poor's Healthcare Economic Indices show.

March's results represent the lowest cost growth in the six-year history of the measure, and reflect a deceleration in healthcare cost growth from the +6.17% in annual growth posted in February, and +6.31% in January 2011 for this index, S&P said.

Even with the deceleration, healthcare costs grew by more than double the 2.7% growth in overall inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the same 12-month period ending in March, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

In its six-year history, the highest annual growth rate for the S&P Composite index was during the 12-months ending May 2010, when it posted +8.74%. With March's report of +6.19%, claims costs growth rates have decelerated 2.97 percentage points in 10 months, S&P said.

A further breakdown shows that, over the 12 months ending March, healthcare costs covered by commercial insurance rose +7.57%, down from +7.97% for the 12-month period ending in February, as measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index. Medicare claim costs rose at an annual rate of +2.78%, for the 12-month period ending in March, down from of +3.22% for February, as measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index. This is also the lowest annual rate of growth posted for the Medicare Index in its six-year history, S&P said.

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