Medical prices increasing more slowly than other sectors: 4 things to know

The U.S. consumer price index rose 7 percent for the 12 months ended in December 2021, but it increased only 2.5 percent for medical care services, according to a Jan. 12 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although medical prices are increasing at a slower pace than other sectors, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant could change this, The Washington Post reported Jan. 12.

Four things to know:

1. Healthcare prices could be growing more slowly than other sectors because payments are usually laid out a year in advance, according to The Health 202, a newsletter produced by The Post. "Of course, looking into the future is hard. But what I would say is that — assuming that the same kind of pressures that are causing prices in the economy to go up maintain — there's no reason to think that those pressures wouldn't also exist for healthcare," Corey Rhyan, a senior analyst at Altarum, a nonprofit health research and consulting group, told The Health 202.

2. The circumstances are different from the beginning of the pandemic, according to The Health 202. At first, prices in other sectors fell while healthcare prices increased because of certain changes, including how much the government reimbursed Medicaid programs. But that has since flipped as higher prices move into other parts of daily life.

3. With healthcare experiencing trends like increased labor costs, prices could soon rise. To combat staff shortages, hospitals are turning to temporary workers more often, and for a higher cost. Three-fourths of healthcare facilities in the U.S. are seeking temporary employees, according to a survey by AMN Healthcare. Travel nurses can get more than $4,000 per week in some cases, according to Sumner College.

4. This could mean higher premiums and co-pays for patients in the future, according to The Health 202.

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