Is this a blip or a bombshell?
An eyebrow-raising jump in the prices of medical care that helped boost the Consumer Price Index surprised economists and health-care experts, who can't figure out what's driving the large increase. It's also not clear whether the pace will be maintained beyond just one month.
"I find this maddening," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the Congressional Budget Office who's now president of the American Action Forum policy institute.
"I'm now obsessed," he said.
Holtz-Eakin told CNBC he downloaded a decade's worth of data, and spoke to a half-dozen economists and health-care analysts, to try to figure out what drove medical care prices surprisingly higher in April. The increase was largely driven by reported hikes in the prices of hospital services.
Those experts said there was no regulatory change or any other obvious event during April that could have sparked the sharp price spike.
"We have no explanation for what's going on in hospital services," Holtz-Eakin said. "Why it's so big, and why in April, I can't explain it."
The so-called medical care index, maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rose 0.7 percent in April, "its largest increase since January 2007," the BLS wrote in a report issued Friday. The overall Consumer Price Index, of which medical care is one of eight components, grew just 0.1 percent for the month.