We already knew the economy really struggled over the first few months of 2015, with March being especially rough. A new report from economists at Macroeconomic Advisers shows just how bad a month it really was.
The forecasting firm, which tracks economic progress on a monthly basis rather than just a quarterly one, now says that GDP fell 1 percent in March. “This was the largest decline since December 2008, when the U.S. economy was in the throes of recession,” its update notes.
The Commerce Department initially estimated that GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter. An updated report, due May 29, is now expected to show that the economy actually shrank over the first three months of the year. J.P. Morgan economists have lowered their tracking estimate of first-quarter GDP from -0.8 percent to -1.1 percent based on data released over the last two days.
As we’ve written before, though, the downturn isn’t necessarily reason to worry about the fundamental health of the economy, or at least it shouldn’t stoke fears that we’re diving into another recession. As the Macroeconomic Advisers report explains, “A sharp decline in net exports more than accounted for the decline in monthly GDP, as resolution to the West Coast port dispute led to a surge in imports to well above the recent trend. As a result, they write, they believe the one-month plunge “overstates the underlying weakness in the economy.”
That’s not to say the economy is particularly strong, either. Both Macroeconomic Advisers and J.P. Morgan now forecast second-quarter GDP growth to come in at a tepid 2 percent annualized rate.
The cost of insulin used to treat Type 1 diabetes nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016, according to an analysis released this week by the Health Care Cost Institute. Researchers found that the average point-of-sale price increased “from $7.80 a day in 2012 to $15 a day in 2016 for someone using an average amount of insulin (60 units per day).” Annual spending per person on insulin rose from $2,864 to $5,705 over the five-year period. And by 2016, insulin costs accounted for nearly a third of all heath care spending for those with Type 1 diabetes (see the chart below), which rose from $12,467 in 2012 to $18,494.
The partial government shutdown has hit the economy like a hurricane – and not just metaphorically. Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Tuesday that the shutdown has now cost the economy about $26 billion, close to the average cost of $27 billion per hurricane calculated by the Congressional Budget Office for storms striking the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. From an economic point of view, it’s basically “a self-imposed natural disaster,” CRFB said.
The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.
In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.