Blog Post

Insight: Medical Inflation in Utah: The Ups and Downs of Data and Measurement

By: Laura Summers

Curbing the cost of medical care is one of the hottest health care topics right now—and with good reason. Surprise medical bills, the rising cost of prescription drugs, and a lack of price transparency in the health care market have frustrated the public and have policymakers looking for solutions. And while our collective pocketbooks have all experienced the squeeze of health care costs, what does the rise in these costs look like from a national and state perspective?

National Measures of Inflation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) is one of the most commonly used measures of inflation. “The CPI measures inflation by tracking retail prices of a good or service of a constant quality and quantity over time. Tracking retail prices allows CPI to capture changes in out-of-pocket household spending.”[1] ‘Medical care’ is one of eight categories used to determine the CPI. BLS defines out-of-pocket medical spending as:

  • Patient payments made directly to retail establishments for medical goods and services;
  • Health insurance premiums paid for by the consumer, including Medicare Part B; and
  • Health insurance premiums deducted from employee paychecks.

While data from BLS show a positive inflation rate for medical care over the l