Study predicts slowdown in medical care cost increases

Although cost increases are dropping from past years, experts still believe the current rate of increase is unsustainable.

The rising cost of healthcare has become a national area of concern, as millions of Americans are now part of high-deductible insurance plans that leave them footing a greater portion of the cost of care. When a patient is unable to afford treatment, hospitals and care facilities are left with bad debt that can greatly affect their ability to provide quality patient care.

Fortunately, a new study by Buck Consultants, a consulting services firm, provides evidence that the rise in the cost of care could be slowing. Buck Consultants surveyed 126 U.S insurers and health-plan administrators, who provide 119 million people with health insurance. 

The study found that costs for preferred-provider-organization (PPO) plans are up 8.7 percent in 2014, lower than last year's 9.0 percent growth and 2012's 9.2 percent. 

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) experienced the largest decline in cost increases, with an 8.6 percent increase this year compared to last year's 9.1 percent.

Harvey Sobel, a co-author of the study, reasoned that the slowdown, in combination with other factors, could be a result of the average prescription-drug cost increase falling from 9.9 percent last year to 9.2 percent today.

However, the decline in price increase may not yet be a cause for celebration. Health costs are still rising more than four times as fast as the current U.S. inflation rate. "Even though the decline is good news, most plan sponsors still find 8 to 9 percent cost increases unsustainable," Sobel told CFO.com.

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