KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Healthcare Costs For U.S. Companies Seen Rising Nine Percent

"Healthcare costs for U.S. businesses are seen rising by 9 percent in 2010, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers PWC.UL survey, which showed that employers will expect workers to pay more of the bill," Reuters reports. "PwC's annual "Behind the Numbers: Medical Costs Trends for 2010," released on Thursday, showed that one of the factors driving costs was more workers using health insurance plans if they expected to be laid off. And, it showed that as unemployment rises in the United States, leaving more people uninsured or underinsured, there will be a decline in membership in commercial plans and greater dependence on public programs, such as Medicaid." Of the 500 employers surveyed, 42 percent said they "would increase workers' share of healthcare costs," and 41 percent that they "would increase medical cost sharing through changes to plans." In addition, "more than two-thirds of employers offer wellness and disease management programs, but few said they were very effective at lowering costs."

Meanwhile, "costs for healthcare products and services have risen by 9.2 percent in 2009 after rising 9.9 percent in 2008." Jack Rodgers, "managing director in the health policy economics group of PricewaterhouseCoopers," says "The recession is creating a tug of war between upward and downward pressures on medical costs… With most prices holding steady or falling, health plans will put pressure on providers to hold the line on medical costs" (Ng, 7/13).

NPR reports that "more companies are putting health care clinics in the workplace," which some studies show "can cut health care costs by up to 30 percent." Michael Ratcliffe of the consulting firm Fuld and Company "says more than 1,000 U.S. companies have onsite health clinics with doctors, nurses and labs. And many offer 30-minute visits. He estimates that clinics like these will serve 10 to 15 percent of the working population within the next few years." Ted Epperly, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, points out that most employees still have private doctors, and medical records from job site clinics usually do not "follow patients from place to place" (Toner 7/13).

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