Groceries and housing cheap, but don't get sick

WASHINGTON — For Americans who want to see their doctor or send their kids to college, the costs of doing so are rising, even as prices for many basic goods such as food and housing fall.

Friday's Labor Department report on the Consumer Price Index showed that inflation was nonexistent in July, as prices were flat compared with June. Consumer prices fell 2.1 percent from the previous year, the biggest decline in almost 60 years, mostly due to plunging energy prices, down 28.1 percent since peaking in July 2008.

Still, even excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called core prices rose only 0.1 percent in July and by 1.5 percent in the past year.

But health care and education costs both rose more, as they have for years. President Barack Obama has repeatedly cited rising health care costs as a major reason for reform.

The cost of medical care increased by 3.2 percent in the past year, the government's report said, as the price of hospital services jumped 6.5 percent.

While that's far above the 2.1 percent drop in overall prices, health care costs have increased at much faster rates in the past.

In 1990, they jumped at a 9 percent annual clip, and in 1982, by 11.6 percent. Overall inflation was higher in those years as well — 5.4 percent in 1990 and 6.2 percent in 1982.

Meanwhile, education costs, which include tuition and child care, rose 5.6 percent in the past year. The price of textbooks and supplies jumped 8.4 percent, the department said.

Here are some other details in the consumer price report for July by the numbers:

Good news for carnivores and vegans

1.3 percent: Drop in meat, poultry, fish and egg prices

0.6 percent: Drop in prices for dairy and related products

0.3 percent: Drop in fruit and vegetable prices

Bad news for smokers and drinkers

0.3 percent: Increase in alcoholic beverage prices

2.2 percent: Increase in tobacco prices

Eat out, or stay home?

0.5 percent: Drop in "food at home" prices

0.1 percent: Rise in "food away from home" prices

Cheaper hotels, more expensive flights

2.1 percent: Drop in prices for "lodging away from home"

2.1 percent: Rise in airline fares

Cheaper clothes for men, pricier for women

0.7 percent: Drop in price of men's and boys' apparel

1.2 percent: Increase in women's and girls' apparel

You won't believe these prices

0.5 percent: Rise in prices for new cars

0 percent: Change in prices for used cars

What got cheaper?

3.2 percent: Drop in prices for personal computers

0.3 percent: Drop in cost of household gas and electricity

0.8 percent: Drop in gas prices