CPI: Medical Care Costs Rise 0.2% in March

April 16, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Medical care costs continue to climb, inching 0.2% higher in March.

While the cost of medical services continues to increase, compared to February’s 0.4% increase, last month’s rise was modest.  However, when measured against last March, medical costs have increased 4.3%, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ release of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for March.

Contributing to the rise was the increase in the medical care commodities index, a measure of prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs and medical supplies, showing a 0.4% increase in March and a 2.9% rise since March 2002 levels. Components of the care commodities index also showed increases in March as:

  • prescription drugs and medical supplies rose 0.3% and were up 3.7% since March 2002
  • nonprescription drugs and medial supplies increased 0.7% and were up 0.9% since March 2002.

Hospital services were up 0.1% in March and 8.2% higher since the same month last year.  The largest increases were seen in:

  • nursing homes and adult daycare, which rose 0.7% in December and were up 5.5% since March 2002
  • outpatient hospital service, which increased 0.3% in March and saw a hike of 11.9% since March 2002.

Also seeing a 0.1% increase in March were professional services costs, which have risen 2.9% since March 2002. Adding to the bite of higher professional service costs were dental service prices, up 0.4% in March and 3.6% for the previous 12 months.   Remaining on the same level as February’s numbers were physician services. However these costs have still risen 3% since March 2002.

Overall, the non-seasonally adjusted March CPI recorded an increase of 0.6% to a level 3% higher than the previous year.     Energy costs again rosesharply, up 4.6% in March, and accounted for over 90% of theadvance in the overall CPI.