Health Care Costs Will Keep Getting Higher

   The latest report on the Health Care Reform Bill from Richard Foster, chief Medicare actuary, points out that health care costs will not decline but increase by a total of $311 billion during the next 10 years, even though there are provisions for competitive insurance markets for individuals and small businesses to be opened up along with tax credits come the year 2014. Surprised? Don’t be. The real problem with health care has been and always will be high rates (and until cost controls come into play, rates will continue to go up) and overcharging for services rendered and sometimes not rendered.

   Even if you have insurance, you can’t afford to get sick. Case in point: Last month I spent five hours in the emergency room (nothing life-threatening), never got into a room but laid on a gurney in the hallway. Final bill, which included two CAT scans—$21,837. Fortunately I have health care coverage and the hospital is also a preferred provider, so they discounted their charges to $7,123. By using a network provider, there was a savings of $12,934 to my insurance company with the remaining balance my responsibility. Hospitals decide what level you are during treatment and charge accordingly, which can add thousands to your stay.

   Coverage expansions with the new health care bill will offset any savings, although health care costs could be slowed as cutbacks in Medicare payments to health care providers and a tax on some of the high-cost employer-sponsored become implemented. But these lower payments for Medicare providers could result in the closing or reduction of services from hospitals and nursing homes. The report from Foster also points out that the new law will save Medicare $500 billion in the coming decade, which should postpone the exhaustion of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years; so Medicare would run out of money in the year 2029. Costs for premiums and co-payments should also be reduced for Medicare patients. But with more and more people living longer and needing more services, costs will continue to rise. Until supply outweighs demand, or we become a much healthier country, don’t look for any reductions in health care.

Jeff Mitchell

   
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