Health care costs are now approaching 15% of our national economy and the economic repercussions have been felt by most American families as employers are unwilling to absorb the bulk of the health care cost burden.
In 2004, employer health insurance premiums increased by 11.2% -nearly four times the rate of inflation. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $10,000. The annual premium for single coverage averaged $3,695. Health insurance premiums will rise to an average of more than $14,500 for family coverage in 2006.
In 2004, health care spending in the United States reached $1.7 trillion, and is projected to reach $1.9 trillion in 2005. Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.
Overall national health care costs will increase further with the implementation of Medicare prescription drug coverage. Too many Americans are uninsured while even a greater percentage have no insurance at all. Uninsured individuals also present a problem for hospitals and other providers who must provide treatment in catastrophic situations without compensation.
Many employees receive restricted coverage and insurance plans that are negotiated between employers and insurance providers limit coverage to a single insurance carrier or an HMO.
Prescription drugs are the fastest-growing part of the nation’s health care expense. Pharmacy bills have become a significant item in the budget of most families.
For 37% of Americans without prescription coverage, the problem is critical. Especially for seniors who constitute 12% of the population but use 37% of prescription drugs. The rest especially those without health insurance, is significantly affected by high drug prices.
What has caused this cost increase?
Much of it is due to a riddled health care system of excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, inappropriate care, waste and fraud. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance for employers and workers.
On the other side of the cost issue there is the recent development of new effective medications for a variety of illnesses. Such newer “brand name” medications are patent-protected and cost far more than generic medications.
The drug industry argues that the higher cost of new medications helps fund research and development of even newer medicines. Many critics argue that much of the research and development of pharmaceutical products is actually government funded.
Also contributing to the cost increase is marketing. As this is 30% of a drug manufacturer’s budget. Brand-name U.S drug makers were reported to employ 81% more people in marketing than in research and development of much needed drugs.
Policymakers and government officials agree that health care costs must be controlled. But they disagree on the best ways to address rapidly escalating health spending. Some favor price controls and imposing strict budgets on health care spending.
Others believe free market competition is the best way to solve the problems but if people can’t afford it, how will they protect themselves and their family?
Well there is something you can do and that’s become apart of the solution and not the problem by learning more about our troubled medical industry.
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