Consumer prices for hospital services dropped 0.7% in April, the largest one-month decline since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics first reported the figures in January 1997. The drop follows a 0.4% increase the prior month, figures for the BLS Consumer Price Index show. In April 2012, hospital consumer prices increased 0.5%.
Decline in hospital CPI biggest since '97
Daniel Ginsburg, supervisory economist at the Labor Bureau's consumer price program, said the sharp decline does not necessarily suggest a shift in price trends. Price declines that contributed to the drop occurred in geographic regions that carry more weight in the index because of population and historical spending, he said. Price increases occurred as well, he said, but were not enough to offset the decline.
The Consumer Price Index reflects what hospitals are paid by private insurers, privately insured patients and the uninsured. Unlike the Producer Price Index, the CPI excludes Medicare and Medicaid.
For the year ended last month, hospital consumer prices increased 4.3% compared with 5.2% the prior 12 months.
Last month's decline in hospital consumer prices was accelerated by the largest one-month drop in inpatient hospital prices since January 1997. Inpatient service prices dropped 0.9%. Outpatient services consumer prices also declined by 0.5%, the largest one-month drop since August 2004.
Consumer prices for physician service , meanwhile, increased 0.4% in April compared with 0.2% the prior month and 0.2% in April 2012.
For the year ended in April, physician service consumer prices climbed 2.7% compared with 1.4% the prior year.
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