With the increasing shift toward high deductible plans, families nationwide are likely to experience an increase in their annual out-of-pocket costs. How much?
According to consulting and actuarial firm Milliman’s “2015 Milliman Medical Index,” which measures the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four receiving coverage from an employer-sponsored preferred provider plan, “costs for this family will increase by 6.3% ($1,456), resulting in a total cost of $24,671. The employer pays $14,198 of this and the employee — through payroll deductions and cost sharing at the time of service — pays $10,473.”
Much of the increase is tied to the rising cost of prescription drugs. These costs increased 13.6% from 2014 to 2015. Growth over the previous five years averaged 6.8%. Milliman stated the 2015 spike was attributable the introduction of new specialty drugs as well as price increases in brand and generic name drugs, increases in use of compound medicines, and other causes.
Milliman goes on to note that the costs of healthcare for a typical family of four have doubled over the past decade and tripled since 2001. The firm expects the amount to surpass $25,000 in 2016.
According to a survey conducted earlier in the year by private health insurance exchange EHealth, more than 6 in 10 people indicated they are more worried about the financial effect of expensive medical emergencies and paying for healthcare than about funding retirement or covering their kids’ education.
How will this increase in costs impact healthcare spending and the economy over the long term?
According to a column by Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, in The Wall Street Journal, “… all signs suggest that out-of-pocket health costs will continue to rise faster than worker earnings. No employer I know wants to increase deductibles, if only because raising cost-sharing is so unpopular with employees. But employers have limited options to forestall premium increases, and they know that unless they do so their health premiums will continue to rise and it will be more difficult to raise wages and hire more workers.”
In an interview conducted by Phys.org, Zachary Cooper, assistant professor of public health and economics at Yale University, said, “And what we’ve seen year after year, until very recently, is that healthcare spending has grown faster than the rest of the economy. The challenge is, if that continues over time, it crowds out our ability to spend in other areas that we think are crucial to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy — like education, like infrastructure. The same applies to businesses. As healthcare occupies a larger share of, say, the cost of producing a Ford truck, we either have to become more efficient or produce lower-quality trucks. That’s the challenge that we’re all facing.”
Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said, “Deductibles have nearly doubled over the past five years through the adoption of high deductible plans offered by employers and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We will be tracking this trend closely as we suspect that average deductibles could rise much more in the coming years. The continued increase in deductibles will place even more importance on transparency of costs in the billing process and will require providers to offer payment plans that will demand a new level of effort to collect reimbursement.”
In a U.S. News & World Report column, Brian Kelly, the publication’s editor and chief content editor, said, “Barring a serious overhaul in the way healthcare is reimbursed … the government will become even more involved in healthcare, and Americans will pay a greater share of their healthcare costs.”