If you’re only taking a glancing pass through headlines, you might see “Health care costs to slow in 2014” or “Healthcare Cost Slowdown Projected” and think there’s some comfort there. “FINALLY,” you might exclaim over, I don’t know, Cheerios; “some relief for the American consumer!”
Only, of course, a slowdown is not the same as, say, a price drop. And a price drop is not being talked about at all.
CNN Money tells us “Total costs for health care services, including everything from doctor visits and prescription drugs to surgeries, are expected to rise 6.5% in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in.” They’re getting that from a report released by PwC’s Health Research Institute.
The bad news: healthcare costs are outstripping wage-growth. The good news, though: it’s doing it slower than was expected. So, yay?
The challenge, of course, is this: “Cost-conscious consumers are a major factor driving the slowdown. Bearing a greater share of health care costs, many workers are limiting doctor visits, delaying procedures and choosing cheaper providers.”
This means: greater chances of consumers being struck with stronger ailments that will cost them even more money in the future. This means: greater chances of hospitals and doctors’ offices carrying bad debt on their books because these are consumers who can’t even afford routine medical care, let alone catastrophic care.
“Consumers are learning to cope with increasing costs by changing their behaviors, the report found. With the cost of emergency room co-pays up 50% between 2009 and 2013, many consumers have switched to less-expensive venues for healthcare services, such as retail clinics and urgent care centers. Visits to retail clinics, such as those in pharmacies and other retailers, nearly tripled in the past five years, according to the report.”