The Consumer Price Index for hospital services edged upward in December, ending 2014 up 4.9%, the latest federal figures show.
The index is one of two measures of inflation released monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it monitors changes in commercial prices. The second measure, the broader Producer Price Index, also includes changes to Medicare prices. The PPI ended 2014 with the slowest growth for hospital prices in a decade. Weak inflation has contributed to the recent historic slowdown in U.S. healthcare spending.
The Consumer Price Index for hospital services increased 0.5% last month, up from 0.2% for November. The CPI for December 2013 was 0.3%. All figures are seasonally adjusted.
The 4.9% increase in prices for 2014 was up slightly from the 4.2% increase for the year that ended in December 2013.
Outpatient hospital prices increased more quickly in December at 0.6%, compared with a 0.5% increase in inpatient prices. But for the year, inpatient prices outpaced outpatient prices, accelerating 5.5% and 4.5%, respectively.
Prices for physician services increased 0.3% last month after the 0.5% increase in the November CPI. Last month's increase was the same as it was in December a year earlier. For the full year, the increase for physician services was 1.5%, compared with 1.9% in 2013.
Follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans