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Rates for both nursing home care and home healthcare grew more slowly in March than in February, according to Altarum’s monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators brief, released Tuesday. 

Nursing home rates increased by 4%, year over year, compared with 4.4% in February, while rates for home healthcare grew by 3.1%, down from 3.4% in February, George Miller, Altarum fellow and senior researcher, told the McKnight’s Business Daily on Tuesday. 

“The March 2024 price increases were also lower than for the same period in the previous year, particularly for nursing homes: Year-over-year nursing home prices in March 2023 grew by 7%, while prices for home healthcare grew by 3.3%,” Miller said.

According to the report, national health spending in February 2024 was 6.2% higher than in February 2023 and represented 17.2% of the gross domestic product. 

Overall, personal healthcare spending (spending on healthcare goods and services) grew by 7% year over year, Miller noted.

Growth among the major spending categories of nursing homes, home health, hospital care, physician and clinical services, and prescription drugs was fairly consistent, according to the data, with all categories showing growth between 7.2% and 8%. Dental services was the outlier, growing by 5% year over year, Altarum noted. 

Nursing home care spending and home health spending grew by 7.9% and 7.2% of the GDP, respectively, year over year. Altarum previously reported that nursing home care and home healthcare had been two of the fastest-growing categories of healthcare spending in 2023.

Jobs added

Healthcare employment increased by 66,700 in February. The 12-month average is 60,100 jobs added. 

February’s healthcare job growth was led by growth in ambulatory healthcare services, which added 28,000 jobs, and hospitals, which added 27,700 jobs. By comparison, nursing and residential care facilities added 17,700 jobs. 

“These numbers all exceeded the monthly averages for the past year, when nursing care facilities averaged 5,400 new jobs per month and other nursing and residential care facilities averaged 7,000, for a monthly total averaging 12,400,” Miller said. 

The home healthcare services category added 11,700 jobs in March, “somewhat above the monthly average of 10,500 jobs over the past year,” he added. Overall, healthcare employers added 72,300 jobs in March, “well above the 12-month average of 62,400.”

Wage growth

“In February, nominal wage growth in the three major healthcare settings was highest in nursing and residential care facilities, at 4.5% year over year, followed by ambulatory healthcare services (which includes home healthcare), at 3.2%, and hospitals, at 3%,” Miller said. 

Wage data for March are not available yet, he noted.