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Rising Health Care Costs Have Many People on Edge Posted: April 13th, 2010

By Joe Taylor Jr.

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

More than two out of three Americans worry at least a little bit about the rising cost of health care, according to a March 2010 Harris Interactive poll. Researchers contacted nearly 2,400 adults from a prescreened online panel to ask about their health care coverage. Of those polled, 27 percent reported being "extremely worried" about having to pay more for health insurance premiums and other health care costs, 17 percent said they were "very worried," while another 27 percent admitted to being "somewhat worried."

Americans Blame Health Insurance Companies for High Costs

A limited number of health insurance options in many parts of the country may have propelled the insurance industry to the top of the list of parties the Harris Interactive poll respondents felt were responsible for rising health care costs. Drug companies ranked close behind, with hospitals and lawmakers bearing at least some responsibility for health care inflation.

When asked, "Which of the following people/groups, if any, do you think are to blame for the increased cost of health insurance," those participating in the poll responded:

  • Insurance Companies: 71%
  • Drug Companies: 63%
  • Hospitals: 42%
  • Congress: 35%
  • Medical Service Companies: 29%
  • Doctors: 29%
  • President Obama: 21%
  • President Bush: 19%
  • None of these: 1%
  • Not Sure: 10%

Despite intense political debate over access to medical insurance, respondents assigned blame almost equally to both the current and former presidents. The 2010 Harris Interactive poll also showed that consumers above the age of 40 were especially concerned about the rising cost of health care. This unease, which showed a dramatic increase over 2009 poll results, may be caused in part by long-time employers scaling back employee benefits packages.

Why Are Health Insurance Costs Rising?

The Harris Interactive poll also questions respondents on why they thought health insurance premiums were increasing, and 58 percent believe that rising costs could be attributed to the profits of health insurers and drug companies.

However, Harris Interactive reports that a number of health economists state that health insurance and pharmaceutical company profits only make up 2 percent of health care spending. Rather than medical insurers and drug company profits, health care costs may be increasing because of expensive medical technology and rising health care service fees. This echoes findings recently reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February 2010. The CDC report shows that the use of high-tech medical tests and procedures has dramatically increased in the last ten years.

Joe Taylor Jr.