Experimental Disease-Based Price Indexes Now Available

I am extremely pleased to announce that BLS has released a new data product, experimental disease-based price indexes.

These indexes will give data users better ongoing information about the evolution of the nation’s healthcare system. Because healthcare is such a large part of our economy, it is incredibly important we produce timely, accurate, and reliable medical statistics.

Currently, all federal statistical agencies report healthcare data by what’s called the “medical goods and services categories.” However, this approach doesn’t tell us one important thing: Which diseases have the greatest effect on healthcare spending over time?

After identifying the diseases that affect spending the most, we can drill down to learn the reasons for their growth. With disease-based price indexes, we can break down the growth into categories, such as the parts that come from inflation, population growth, growth in disease prevalence, and real per capita output growth. We can’t do any of this with our traditional medical goods and services categories, such as physician services, pharmaceuticals, and hospitals.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis now reports spending by disease in their national healthcare satellite accounts, so we also need disease-based price indexes to adjust for inflation. Disease-based price indexes measure healthcare inflation differently and capture the effects of innovations that our traditional medical goods and services price indexes do not. For example, better surgical procedures have enabled doctors to perform many types of surgery using a less expensive outpatient setting, instead of an expensive inpatient hospital. The disease-based price indexes allow us to measure the effect of this shift.

I am incredibly proud of the team who produced these experimental disease-based price indexes. These indexes fulfill our BLS mission to continuously improve our products and provide timely, accurate, and relevant data to our users. These indexes also come at no additional cost because of the team’s innovative use of existing data, such as the freely available Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We at BLS strive every day to provide the best value for your taxpayer dollars, and this is a shining example of that effort!

We also could not provide gold-standard data such as these indexes without the help of our survey respondents. I deeply appreciate all the medical providers who voluntarily participate in our survey. Their cooperation is essential for generating our medical price indexes and ensures our healthcare data are accurate.

Disease-based price indexes are still in their infancy, and we have much to learn, including the best way to incorporate them into overall price indexes. That’s why we describe them as experimental. We hope data users will find them helpful. We invite you to share your thoughts and ideas to help us continue to develop these indexes. And, as Commissioner, I hope you can see why I am so proud of this key contribution BLS has made to ensuring better medical statistics now and in the future.