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New Report Suggests Health Care costs could slow in 2014

Although no one can predict the future, CNN Money reports health care costs could rise as little as 6.5% in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. This estimate is contrary to claims made by President Obama when he claimed Obamacare would decrease the cost of medical care, but the estimated increase pales in comparison to hefty rises we have seen in the last ten years. The good news for consumers is the costs, which have substantially outpaced wage growth, appears to be shrinking.

What’s driving the health care costs decrease?

Experts report that now that consumers are paying for more of the actual costs of medical care as employers have moved some of the health care costs to their employees now employees have become cost conscious shoppers and have limited their doctor visits, delayed procedures and are searching for cheaper providers.

Recent reports, however, are not clear on how employers will handle the new health care costs. For instance, employer health care costs are projected to increase an average of 4.5%, and whether employers will pass these health care costs onto their employees is yet to be seen. Additionally, as millions of Americans purchase health insurance through state based “exchanges” it is not clear what the out of pocket health care costs will be.

Consumers search for alternative treatment options as health care costs rise

What is clear is that consumers have learned to adapt their behaviors as health care costs have increased. With the increased cost of emergency room services we have seen new venues for healthcare services such as retrial clinics and urgent care centers.

Consumers will have to continue to be cost conscious with high deductible plans potentially becoming the norm. For instance, according to CNN, “More than 44% of employers say they are considering making a high-deductible plan (typically $1,000 or higher) the only option for employees.”

Increased health care costs are just part of the problem. Many patients have also seen costs for medications nearly double in the last five years. If this trend continues, this will be especially troublesome for patients with complicated conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, which are expected to face an estimated 22% increase in costs in 2014.

While the increased cost for medical care is not good news, it’s a good sign that individuals are starting to ask questions about the cost for medical services. For too long patients simply followed their doctor’s treatment plans without asking good questions about the necessity of some treatment options and shopping around for the best prices. Greed in the health care industry has taken a toll on all of us. We are used to looking around for the best deal when buying a car, why don’t we take the same steps when finding the right doctor or getting an MRI? The answer is simple, for many of us someone else (i.e. the insurance company) was paying for the service and we didn’t need to investigate whether the price was really right. That could be about to change. Now we might be paying a lot more- which will hopefully lead us to ask better questions.
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