Soaring Medical Costs: New Numbers, Same Story

Recession or no recession, the nation's health care bill keeps growing. The Health Care Financing Administration estimates that total health care spending rose by 10.5% last year for the third year in a row, hitting $666.2 billion, or 12.2% of gross national product-an all-time record. It also reports that about three-quarters of the rise in per-capita health expenditures, from $1,063 in 1980 to $2,566 in 1990, reflected inflation rather than increases in the volume or quality of services. Over the past decade, health care prices have jumped about 50% faster than overall inflation.

Working Americans have been hit particularly hard. Benefits consultant Hay/Huggins & Co. estimates that the annual cost of health insurance for a typical employee and family jumped by 409% from 1980 to 1991, to $4,464, with employees shouldering a growing part of this bill. According to Hay/Huggins, the typical corporate employee with family coverage is now paying more than $1,300 for health insurance out of pocket, compared with $150 in 1980-and that doesn't include outlays for higher deductibles and co-payments.

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