Ready or Not, Health Care Costs Projected to Rise Another 5% in 2019

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Whether you are a consumer or an employer, there is a pretty good chance you would like to have lower costs of health care. Whether you refer to the recent years of health care as Obamacare or “affordable care,” the reality is that health insurance costs and other costs around health care continued to rise. Get used to it. The hope of cheaper health care ahead under President Trump may be misguided. It turns out that getting the actual cost of health care to go down has become far more difficult than politicians and think tanks have made it sound.

A report from the National Business Group on Health already projects that health care costs are going to rise again in 2019. This higher projection even considers that virtual health care and technology will play a major role in how health is delivered.

The National Business Group on Health has released its Large Employers’ 2019 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey. The message is simple but perhaps painful after factoring in the actual dollars being spent: employers are projecting a 5% rise in the total cost of providing medical and pharmacy benefits in 2019. This rise was said to be for the sixth year in a row.

While the figures used include expected premiums and out-of-pocket costs for employees and dependents, the National Business Group on Health’s figure showed that the total cost of health care is expected to rise from $14,099 per employee in 2018 to an average level of $14,800 in 2019. Employers in this study pointed to high cost claims, specialty pharmacies and specific diseases as the top drivers of cost increases. Cancer, cardiovascular and fertility costs are experiencing the greatest growth.

Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, said of the 2018 and 2019 outlook:

Health care cost increases continue to outpace workers’ earnings and increases in inflation, making this trend unaffordable and unsustainable over the long term. No longer able to rely on traditional cost sharing techniques to manage costs, a growing number of employers are taking an activist role in shaking up how care is delivered and paid for.

According to the survey, seven out of 10 employers believe new market entrants from outside the health care industry are needed to disrupt health care in a positive way. The Large Employers’ 2019 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey was conducted during May and June of 2018 and a total of 170 large employers participated. These respondents as a whole are said to represent a wide range of industry sectors and offer coverage to more than 19 million employees and their dependents.

Clearly, new ideas will be needed when it comes to governing health care. The government has proven to be atrocious at capping the cost of health care, and the largest health care providers in drugs, hospitals, insurance, medical products and devices are all public companies (or for-profit) and want to have growth for their investors and shareholders.

The debate on the solutions for the future of health care costs, at least for now, looks like it is only going to continue.