Gas prices are up. Food and housing costs are soaring. U.S. inflation in April was 8.3% before seasonal adjustment, a little below the 40-year high in March of 8.5%, according to the Labor Department’s May 11 release of the Consumer Price Index. But what about medical services?
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The medical care index increased by 0.4% in April — 3.2% over the past year — while the index for hospital services rose by 0.5%. Physicians’ services grew by 0.2% and the index for prescription drugs was unchanged, the Labor Department reported.
By contrast, medical service inflation has largely been outpaced by economy-wide inflation. Corey Rhyan, senior analyst for health economics and policy at Altarum, explained to CNN that healthcare inflation has generally remained around its historical trend of 2%.
“There’s just not a lot of flexibility for those prices to change in the near term,” Rhyan said.
Medicare has a significant influence on healthcare prices, Matthew Fiedler, a fellow at the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, told CNN. That’s because the projections for 2022 were finalized during the first half of 2021.
Private insurance companies also negotiate rates and sign contracts ahead of time. This means that patients really don’t see an increase in their premiums or out-of-pocket costs during those contracts.
Axios added that cheaper generic drugs have also helped keep medical inflation down, but hospital and doctor services have the biggest impact on higher prices. Other big drivers of inflation in healthcare are labor shortages, supply chain issues and opportunities for companies to boost profits.
If inflation remains high, medical prices could go up even more. However, experts are still unsure whether inflation will cause healthcare prices to spike.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Consumer Price Index: How Much Did Inflation Increase What You Paid for Medical Services in April 2022?