Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, believes that health costs are the #1 driver of America’s long-term deficit. The inexorable increase of health costs are plaguing the Federal budget, Governors’ state budgets, employers’ bottom-lines and ability to compete globally, and household budgets.

Things are looking up for next year when it comes to health costs in 2010 – they’ll continue to grow at double-digit rates, according to Buck Consultants, the employer benefits consultancy.

Buck’s 2009 National Health Care Trend Survey finds that costs for all flavors of health plans – including PPOs, POS, HMO and consumer-driven/high-deductible – will increase between 10.2% and 11.0% into 2010.
The rate of increase has declined very slightly across-the-plans, from 0.1% to 0.3%.

The growth in the cost of prescription drug trends among health plans is projected to decline 0.6%, but still increasing at a 10.8% trend.

Buck surveyed over 100 insurers, HMOs and TPAs covering about 95 million enrollees.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
The rise of health costs, especially in the current recession, is the front-burner issue in health reform. While universal coverage continues to be a priority for most Americans, that issue is sharply split across party lines. Getting health cost increases under control is something most Americans and policymakers can agree on in 2009.

Expect this issue to be front-and-center in health reform discussions this year, as double-digit cost increases are in reformers’ collective crystal ball.