SSR Index of Current-Quarter Healthcare Demand Growth: Initial 4Q13 Estimates

We expect 3.3% (nominal) y/y growth in US health services demand during 4Q13, the product of 2.1% growth in unit demand, and 1.1% price growth. The 2.2% unit growth forecast would be a 20bp improvement over actual 3Q13 growth of  2.0%
The ‘fiscal cliff’ sequester has had an even larger – and longer lasting – impact on nominal, national average health services pricing (via Medicare) 1Q13 than we anticipated. Y/y pricing growth has fallen from 1.9% in 1Q13 to 1.3% in 2Q13 and just 1.1% in 3Q13 — the slowest price growth observed in at least 20 years. Our model projects 4Q13 pricing growth on par with the 1.1% realized in 3Q13
Independent of our quarterly growth rate models, we handicap the odds of a trend break, i.e. a significant acceleration or deceleration in demand. The trend-break model suggests that sequential acceleration in demand during 4Q13 is more likely than not (86%)
The flu season is a key driver of unit demand growth during the fourth and first quarters, with the typical season beginning in late September / early October. Results through November 17, 2013 suggest intensity in the current flu season is tracking slightly below average. Because of last year’s severe season, an average 2013/2014 season would imply a +/- 30bps headwind to unit demand during 4Q13-1Q14
We recommend a healthcare portfolio that balances US focused, volume levered names with selective bets on innovation (specifically innovator companies with pending or recent major new product approvals, and/or high-quality early- to mid-stage pipelines that appear undervalued)
This translates into overweight positions for Biotech; Hospitals; select Non-Rx Consumables (especially more US-focused names such as CFN and OMI); MedicaidHMOs (like WCG and MOH); Health IT; and select Dental names (particularly more US-focused names with product lines that include higher-mix items, such as XRAY and PDCO)
We recommend underweight positions in Large-cap Pharmaceuticals and Specialty Pharmaceuticals (on US real pricing power concerns); PBMs (especially ESRX), DrugRetail (especially CVS), and Drug Wholesale (especially ABC) (on the loss of AWP pricing, and risks of PBM disintermediation); Device Innovators; Medical Equipment (health capital spending will favor information technology in the near term); Diagnostic Labs; and Research Tools / Services (implied revenue growth exceeds R&D spending growth)
For more detail, please see The SSR Healthcare Quarterly, published June 26, 2013




For our full research notes, please visit our published research site.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email