“Since 2000, health insurance premiums for a family of four have increased by 114%” according to a figure presented by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Not only have wages been more stagnant for the middle-class, but deductible costs are skyrocketing annually (experts say deductibles can average $2,000 or more), and the cost for electronic health records (EHRs) are driving private practice physicians to go to larger hospitals to avoid these exorbitant administrative costs.
There’s no denying it: healthcare costs, including insurance premiums and administrative expenses, are at an all-time high and don’t show any signs of stabilizing. Many have attributed these rising costs to physician salaries as a scapegoat. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There are a deluge of reasons to explain the rising healthcare costs that place a strain on physicians, employers and patients alike.
Administrative costs and EHRs are placing increasing operative costs on physicians, especially ones in private practices. Based on a figure by The Physicians Foundation, out of the 1,137 software programs and 551 medical software companies that sell them in 2012, none of these communicate with each other, on purpose. The cost to implement an EHR system can also exceed $25,000.
More and more, doctors are becoming employed by larger hospitals, because they can no longer maintain their practice costs and regulations. Many have a negative outlook—a survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) showed 77% of doctors see the prospect of the medical field’s future to be dismal.
Keep in mind the technology policies are directly affected by Medicare and Medicaid, which are run by the federal government. The government, according to The Physicians Foundation, is “requiring insurers to list more and more treatments and services.” This means we are paying for an excess of treatments we may not require or use at all. This has a ripple effect, and can raise health insurance premiums across the board.
The middle-class are being affected by a freeze in wages that healthcare is not accounting for. Despite the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, people are still struggling to pay deductibles, and others are simply going uninsured and avoiding going to the doctor at all costs. It’s no surprise this contributes to a downward spiral where people wait until they have a severe condition to visit a doctor.
It’s a gamble: avoid looking, to avoid finding out and paying for it until later. The research done by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the amount of annual deductibles until insurance kicks in has raised to 80%, compared to the previous 55%.
It has become readily apparent there is hardship on middle-class workers due to health expenses, since there is a tug-of-war of employers placing more burden on workers to pay for health plans. This inefficient system is due to the economic belt tightening of recent years, as well as the next reason that ties in with avoiding doctor visits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7 in 10 deaths in the United States are due to chronic diseases and are the cause for “75% of the $2 trillion spent on medical care” every year. These are chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Estimated health costs for obesity-related causes totaled about $147 billion in 2008.
What does this tell you? We are spending a lot of money on conditions that are due to lack of exercise and poor eating habits. These are lifestyle choices that we can prevent from happening, including things like smoking and alcohol. By staying active and practicing preventive care, this would improve the health of our country and help reign in the rising costs for deductibles and healthcare policies.
As the beginning of this article states, there isn’t one specific thing to blame when it comes to the rise in healthcare costs. All of these factors are intertwined, and it is up to physicians, patients and the insurers to seek a solution that will lessen the burden placed on middle-class workers and private practices.