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Dealing with the costs of health care

MBJ Editorial

Health care concerns and costs can consume businesses, especially the small ones already struggling with a softening economy and too much bureaucratic regulation.

Analysts expect that the price of health care will continue to rise annually for the foreseeable future. Most businesses can expect double-digit increases, and again, smaller companies will be hardest hit by higher insurance premiums.

There are a number of factors behind this situation: prescription drugs with increased usage and higher prices; heftier fees from doctors, labs and hospitals; bottom-line oriented HMOs. And there’s more to look forward to as new federal regulations, more litigation and a push for additional mental health care coverage looms on the horizon. All of it will cost billions and billions of dollars, and in the end, the health care consumer (that would be you) will have to pay for it.

Remember, companies always pass on their increased “burdens” to their customers. That’s just one little part of the free-market system that we tend to forget about when we want “Big Business” to pay. In the end, we’ll pay if we want the goods, the services, the treatment.

What can businesses do to ease their health care costs? Shop around on coverage. Pass on more costs to employees (the labor markets are easing). But perhaps the most important thing to do is to encourage healthy lifestyle choices among workers — better diets, more exercise, less stress.

Lower health care costs begin with healthy employees.


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