Are Medical Prices Declining?
We address long-standing problems in measuring health care prices by estimating two medical care price indices. The first, a Service Price Index, prices specific medical services, as does the current CPI. The second, a Cost of Living Index, measures the net valuation of treating a health problem. We apply these indices to heart attack treatment between 1983 and 1994. Because of technological change and increasing price discounts, the current CPI overstates a chain-weighted price index by three percentage points annually. For plausible values of an additional life-year, the real Cost of Living Index fell about 1 percent annually.