Study says healthcare expenses up by 8.2% last year, workers losing ground

Share this content:

Healthcare costs for privately insured Americans rose by 8.2% in 2004, due largely to hospital costs, according to a new study released this week in the journal, Health Affairs.

Spending was approximately the same rate of increase as in 2003 -- but almost four times the growth in wages. After peaking at 11.3% in 2001, healthcare spending growth slowed during 2002 and 2003. It has leveled off at a relatively high rate, according to the study from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

"If healthcare spending continues to grow at a significantly faster rate than workers' incomes, and there's every sign that it will, health insurance will become unaffordable to more and more people," said Paul Ginsburg, president of HSC and co-author of the study.

Prescription drug spending per privately insured person grew at a slower pace in 2004, the study said. During 2004, the growth rate was 7.2%, compared with 8.9% in 2003. Also, employer health insurance premium rate growth decreased in 2004, with average increases of 8% to 10% expected in 2005, the study found.