National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)
Health Economics Information Resources: A Self-Study Course
Module 2 - Sources and Characteristics of Information Relating to Health Care Financing in the US
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
In this section we will examine the Consumer Price Index.
Aside from total expenditure figures, researchers often require data on the components that make up expenditure, and a key component of health care expenditure is price information The most common measure of prices is the Consumer Price Index. The CPI measures the average change over time in a fixed “market basket” of goods and services purchased by consumers and is generally used as a measure of inflation. Some version of the CPI has been published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since the early 1900s.
To produce the index, BLS regularly collects data from over 50,000 housing units and 23,000 business establishments in 87 areas across the country. The CPI is based on detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they have actually purchased for daily living over a given period of time. It currently includes price information on food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, health care services, and drugs.
The CPI and the medical prices indexes within it enables us to compare consumer costs over time and to measure the rate of change in prices for various goods and services. Rate of change in price for medical goods, for instance, can be compared to the rate of change for all consumer goods. We can then address the question: are health care prices escalating faster than the other prices are? Likewise, rate of change in prices among categories of medical care can be compared; hospitalization vs. physicians’ services, for example.
An annotated listing of many of these key sources is included in the Web Site section of this course (provided as a link from the Menu under Related Content).