Date of this Version
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
Health care costs represent a large and growing component of business and consumer expenditures in the US. Medical inflation represents these costs, and it differs from aggregate inflation and other market factors with respect to its rate of growth, statistical properties and the extent to which it can be hedged by households and firms. Using multiple model specifications for the 25-year period from 1985 to 2009, we find medical inflation is robustly priced in the cross-section of US stock returns. It commands a risk premium of between 31 and 51 basis points per annum per unit change in beta. Medical inflation is also unique in that it represents the only inflationary component that robustly explains the cross-section of stock returns in this manner and is not subsumed by other common factors in the literature. These results quantify the health care industry’s unique and significant role in the US economy and stock market, further rationalizing the substantial attention this industry receives.