Randy ShumwayAt 17.4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, healthcare spending constitutes a tremendous portion of state, federal, and individual-level budgets. However, Idaho’s health spending per capita is the fourth lowest in the country: just $5,658 per capita, compared with the national average of $6,815 per capita. A few key factors contribute to these savings: active lifestyle, demographics, and healthcare innovation.

Idaho’s beautiful outdoor landscapes beckon skiers, snowboarders, and resort goers in the wintertime. In warmer seasons, residents and visitors flock to national parks, mountain trails, and sparkling lakes. The state’s natural beauty and clean air have a lot to do with encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle.

In terms of health-related demographics, Idaho boasts a lower rate of cigarette smoking than many states in the country: compared to the national average of 17.7 percent, only 15.8 percent of Idaho adults smoke. This single factor has a significant impact on per capita health spending.

But perhaps most importantly, Idaho’s future healthcare costs may decrease in light of innovation. Utilizing data systems that track cost and quality of care, facilities are starting to optimize expenditures without jeopardizing good outcomes.

Ultimately, the combination of smart healthcare provisions, active lifestyles, and population demographics saves Idaho billions of dollars on healthcare each year.

National Economic Indicators

U.S. Consumer Price Index. The U.S. Consumer Price Index remained unchanged from September to October on a non-seasonally adjusted basis and has increased 0.2 percent over the past 12 months. The main increases in the index were driven by food and energy. The food index grew 0.1 percent in October after growing 0.4 percent the month before. Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes rose. The energy index increased 0.3 percent in October after declining in both August and September.

Food prices may be volatile in the short term as this year’s El Niño phenomenon brings drier weather to Southeast Asia and wetter weather to the western Americas. Some items that are likely to temporarily increase in price due to lower production include palm oil, coffee, and rice. Wetter weather in the United States could flip to La Niña conditions in the spring, bringing drought during pollination season. These conditions lead to shortages and price spikes for wheat, corn, and soybeans.

The index for all items less food and energy—which is considered a more telling indicator of price inflation since it excludes the most volatile categories—rose 0.2 percent in October. The increase was driven primarily by price hikes in shelter and medical care. Other contributors included personal care, airfare, recreation, alcohol, and tobacco. On the other hand, apparel, new vehicles, household furnishings and operations, and used cars and trucks all declined in price in October.

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index. The Conference Board’s U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® declined 8.7 points to 90.4 in November. Both the Present Situation and the Expectations Indexes decreased, contributing to the overall decline. The Present Situation Index, which measures sentiment about the current state of the economy, fell from 114.6 in October to 108.1 in November. Similarly, the Expectations Index, which measures confidence in the state of the economy six months out, declined from 88.7 in October to 78.6 in November.

November’s assessment of current conditions was less favorable: the percentage of consumers who felt business conditions were “good” tapered from 26.8 percent in October to 24.4 percent in November. However, fewer people stated current business conditions were “bad”—down to 16.9 percent in November from 18.3 percent in October. Just 19.9 percent of people thought jobs were plentiful in November compared to 22.7 percent the month before.

The biggest drop occurred in expectations for the next six months. The percentage of consumers who expect business conditions to improve decreased from 18.1 percent in October to 14.8 percent in November. Perspectives about the job market are also cooling—those who anticipate more jobs in the months ahead fell from 14.4 percent to 11.6 percent.