Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Health Care Economics

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Health Care Economics

Article excerpt

There's no question that the final vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was historically significant, engaged fascinating political theater and in many ways polarized our nation. While the new law expands coverage to many, I believe there's still much work to be done to address the ever-present challenge of cost containment.

Recent surveys indicate that Americans remain worried about the new health care law's effect on costs - both for the nation as a whole and for them personally. A majority of Americans say health care costs in the United States and the federal budget deficit will get worse as a result of the law.

In fact, growth in medical care costs is projected to be 9 percent this year. This is slightly lower than in previous years, yet it is still expected to outpace inflation and increases in employee earnings. Several factors drive medical costs at a rate that is three to four times the rate of inflation. We often hear about the usual suspects: expensive new drugs, cutting-edge medical technology, preventable illnesses and injuries, chronic disease and defensive medicine.

Data that surrounds these factors are hard to ignore and strongly suggests the need to understand where the money goes. People may be confused when they see premiums go up and mistakenly believe all health plans are pocketing profits. Not true. Premiums go up because medical care costs are rising and, as consumers, we use a lot of medical services. Consumers take advantage of new treatments, new prescription drugs and more intensive diagnostic testing. For example, the number of claims my employer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, receives increases about 3 percent annually. Beyond just this simple increase in utilization, medical costs increased at a markedly higher rate nationally of 9. …

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