By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer
American workers and the companies that employ them can expect health-care costs to continue to rise through the end of the decade, a new report from the Employment Policy Foundation says.
In a review of the workplace that coincides with Labor Day, the non-profit think tank based in Washington, D.C., estimated that the per-employee share of health benefits paid by the employer in 2002 reached $4,233 for workers with families.
By the end of the decade, the cost of that coverage could top $11,000.
"Whether or not it rises that much depends on a lot of factors," said Sharron DiMario, president and executive director of Employer Health Care Alliance, a non-profit association of health-care purchasers in Greater Cincinnati.
Those factors include:
How far employers move into consumer-driven health plan strategies.
Advances in disease management and prevention.
Reduction in diseases through better nutrition and exercise.
"Consumer expectations of care, what we get and what we're paying for will have a big impact and will have to change," she said.
"Everybody wants the most current technology or drug but expects somebody else to pay for it."
The non-profit Employment Policy Foundation also found:
Despite rising unemployment since January 2002, the total number of unemployed and the unemployment rate have been relatively unchanged because employment growth has outpaced labor force growth.
Medical-care costs are rising at about twice the rate of inflation.
Dual-earning married couples make up 41 percent of working households.
Unmarried individuals, most without children, accounted for 42 percent of working households in 2002.
Health-care forecast bleak
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