Inflation nudges upward in April as health care sector prices stay relatively flat

Latest Consumer Price Index report out as White House, Congressional Republicans wrangle over national debt ceiling.

inflation word on wooden cube on coins: © Deemerwha studio

© Deemerwha studio

Inflation rose 0.4% for April, bringing prices up 4.9% overall for the last year.

Shelter, used cars and trucks, and gas prices pushed up prices last month, according to the latest monthly Consumer Price Index Summary published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Prices for all items were up 4.9% for the 12 months ending April, making it the smallest 12-month inflation increase since the period ending in April 2021, according to BLS.

Increases in gas prices offset declines in other energy component indexes for an overall 0.6% rise in the energy index for April, with energy prices generally down 5.1% for the 12 months ending in April. Food prices were stable last month, but the food index was up 7.7% over the last year.

Not counting food and energy, prices for all other items went up 0.4% for the month, following a 0.4% increase in March.

Health care industry

Among the various measures for health care services and goods, medical care services generally were stable, dipping 0.1% from March to April, and up 0.4% from April 2022 to April 2023. Physician service prices were flat for the month and up 0.3% from April last year to April 2023.

Hospital service prices overall rose 0.5% from March to April and by 2.9% from a year ago. Inpatient hospital services rose 0.6% for the month and were up 2.6% over last year, while outpatient hospital services rose 0.4% from March and 4.2% from April 2022.

Health insurance prices nudged down 3.8% from March to April and were down 15.8% from April 2022 to April 2023. That annual decrease was one of the largest in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers expanded with detailed expenditures.

Overall medical care commodities went up in price by 0.5% for the month and 4% from April 2022 to April 2023. Prescription drug prices rose 0.3% for the month and 2.9% year-over-year, while nonprescription drugs were up 0.8% for the month and 5.5% From April 2022. Medical equipment and supply prices rose 0.9% from March to April, and were up 9.9% from April last year.

Inflation, debt ceiling, default?

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said annual inflation was down 45% since last summer, with the annual rate dropping 10 months in a row and unemployment at a 50-year low. The administration has touted last year’s Inflation Reduction Act for lowering costs of prescription drugs, health care, and home energy.

“With all this progress, the single biggest threat to our economy would be if House Republicans fail to prevent default,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to the continuing debate about increasing the nation’s debt ceiling or possibly defaulting on loans. President Joe Biden is at odds with House Republican members who want to approve spending cuts with an increase in the debt ceiling, according to national news reports. The president met May 9 with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and will meet again May 12.

The United States defaulting on its debt “would cost millions of Americans their jobs, increase costs, increase the deficit, and crater retirement accounts,” Jean-Pierre’s statement said. “As the president said to congressional leaders yesterday, we must take default off the table – and then have a separate conversation about the budget. He simply will not accept attempts to take the full faith and credit of the United States hostage in order to enact an extreme agenda that would raise costs for hard-working families.”

McCarthy has used the social media website Twitter to issue statements on the debt ceiling.

The president has ignored the debt ceiling issue for 97 days.

“House Republicans are the only ones in Washington who have passed a responsible debt limit increase that avoids default,” McCarthy tweeted on May 9. “Today is a new opportunity for Democrats to find common ground and act responsibly for future generations.”

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