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Numerous factors contribute to rising healthcare costs

Category: General Wellness

Numerous factors contribute to rising healthcare costsAccording to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, the United States' healthcare costs are more than $2.6 trillion, which is greater than any other country in the world. The rising price of healthcare does not have one cause, and there are a myriad of factors that contribute to the increased expense of staying healthy.

Age and illness
The report notes that one reason for increased spending on healthcare is that the U.S. population is living longer, but also getting sicker and more obese. The baby boomer generation, which is starting to reach retirement age, will add another 1.6 million people onto Medicare's roll. Also, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, more than 50 percent of U.S. citizens suffer from chronic conditions like asthma, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, which can detected with a lab test.

Obesity alone is a contributor to many chronic health-related issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are obese. In 2008, the condition and its related ailments, like type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke, accrued nearly $147 billion in medical costs. This trend shows little sign of improvement in the succeeding generations: Since 1980 the rate of obesity among children has almost tripled, and nearly 17 percent of kids and adolescents are overweight.

New treatments
The Bipartisan Policy Center added that another factor in rising healthcare costs is that patients and doctors are continually demanding the newest treatments and medications. Unfortunately, just because something is new, does not make it better, just more expensive. Most drugs are simply tested for safety, not their effectiveness compared to the older treatments or placebos.

The report goes on to claim though that even with the wealth of knowledge on the internet and in medical journals, the average American has no criteria for grading treatments and comparing them to pre-existing medications. When it does get revealed that a treatment method may be ineffective, that information takes a while to alter how healthcare providers and patients think in terms of solutions.

Medical monopolies
Medical care is also becoming increasingly monopolized as providers consolidate with their competitors and put physicians on their payrolls. Because companies are growing and there is less competition, they have the power to demand higher prices. According to the report, from 1996 to 1997, nearly 41 percent of physicians were in a one- or two-person practice, but that number dropped to 33 percent during 2004 and 2005.

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