Why health care costs continue to rise is not easily answered or understood. Many factors have been cited as contributing to the high cost: the fear of medical malpractice lawsuits, doctor and hospital fees, overuse of unnecessary tests and procedures, extremely high overhead and administrative costs, over-emphasis on treatment as opposed to preventive care, and a quantity- not quality-based system for doctor and hospital reimbursement (they are paid more for how much service they provide) have all been named as potential culprits.
Underlying all of these reasons, however, is the fact that prices for medical goods and services continue to rise because they can. In our market-driven economy, providers of these goods and services like pharmaceutical companies are responsible to their stockholders to show a yearly increased profit. With this goal in mind, prices for products are increased, often without there being any need to do so, other than enhancing the bottom line. According to the Business Journal, for example, the price of a drug that halts premature labor in pregnant women skyrocketed from $10 or $20 per dose $1500 when a Missouri-based pharmaceutical company obtained an exclusive sevenyear patent to sell it. The drug’s price was raised even though the company did not have any associated research or development costs to keep it on the market. In the end, insurance companies will continue to pay for the drug for patients for whom it is medically necessary, but will pass on the added cost by increasing subscriber premiums.
What is clear is that unless something is done to curtail it, the inexorable climb in health care costs will continue. Ultimately, these rising costs will have an increasingly devastating effect on ordinary Americans. Unable to financially bear the larger premiums, co-pays and deductibles, many individuals will put off obtaining needed medical care, endangering their health. That many citizens do put off dealing with health issues because of financial concerns is very sad commentary on the state of the health care industry in the world’s wealthiest nation.