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Healthcare Cost Growth Up Slightly

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 22, 2011

The average per capita cost of healthcare services covered by commercial insurance and Medicare grew 5.58% over the 12 months ending in May.

The slight uptick in cost growth ends what had been 11 consecutive months of deceleration, as measured by the Standard & Poor's Healthcare Economic Indices.

Even with May's uptick in cost growth from the all time low of +5.37% posted in April, the rate of cost growth remains 3.16 percentage points below the highest rate for the Composite index, which was up 8.74% over the 12-months ending May 2010.

A further breakdown for the 12-month period ending in May 2011 shows that annual claims costs covered by commercial insurance increased by 7.35%, in the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index. Medicare claim costs rose 2.64%, in the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index. The Commercial and Medicare Indices are respectively 0.25 and 0.16 percentage points above their April annual rates.

"Over the past 12-15 months, the story has been a moderation in the rate of increase in healthcare cost, as indicated by the decelerating growth rates across the S&P Healthcare Economic Indices," David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, said in a media release. "In fact, the Composite, Medicare and Hospital Indices all posted record low annual rates in their six-year history with April's report. Since May's data covers only one month, we need more time to determine if the trend is changing or if this is a temporary blip, like we saw in January.

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