Drug Costs Blamed for Healthcare Cost Surge

December 13, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Fifty-two percent of all adults report their medical out-of-pocket expenses are higher this year, and many place the blame on prescription drug prices and malpractice costs, according to the latest WSJ Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll.

Participants were asked “which of the following do you think contributed a lot to the increase in spending on health and medical care,” to which 74% of all adults attributed higher prices to rising prescription drug costs; followed by 61% pointing to higher hospital fees and medical malpractice, and 54% saying it is due to increase fraud, waste and abuse.

When the same question was asked to individuals over the age of 65, a whopping 89% attributed it to the increased cost in prescription drugs, with 76% indicated higher hospital fees, and 71% medical malpractice.

Additionally, consumers report seeing an overall increase in out-of-pocket increase for health care in 2002 compared to 2001’s prices, with 55% of all adults and 58% over age 65 reporting higher costs.  

Conversely, 39% of all adults and 29% over 65 reported no change, and only 9% of all adults and 13% over 65 say they saw a decrease.  

The out-of-pocket cost increases were found to be at a mean of 37% in all adults, compared to adults over 65 reporting a mean increase of 25%.   Those reporting lower costs said they had a mean reduction of 38% for all adults and 43% for adults of 65.

However, according to the Chairman of the Harris Poll, Humphrey Taylor, the idea that prescription drug cost are to blame for higher health care cost is due in part to consumer being shielded from price increases in other areas of insurance and benefit plans.  

He said the data might suggest Congress will get more political pressure to do something about higher health care costs.

The poll was conducted online between December 2 and December 4, among a nationwide cross section of 2,438 US adults.