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The Big Story: Insurers predict 10% health cost hikes globally

Overuse of care and poor health habits were cited as the top reasons for the expected increase.

What It Means for You – And All of Us

Sorry if you’ve already thrown your Sunday coffee against the wall, but, like you, we can’t ignore it. More coverage of relentless inflation. More eye-watering numbers like the just-released consumer price index for health insurance showing a nearly 30 percent increase since last September.

These numbers matter because they affect everything and everyone. Your patients, your colleagues, your organization and you. Your strategies, expectations for behavior change – even the tone and temperature of your communications must consider this deterioration of our economic barometer and how it harasses our collective and exhausted cultural psyche.

Ten percent here, almost 30 percent there…Can’t we have any good news?

Actually, yes. In North America, payers predict health benefits cost will rise a measly 6.5 percent (versus 10 percent globally). That’s down from 9.4 percent this year, according to the WTW annual Global Medical Trends Survey which tracks medical costs of 257 insurers in 55 countries.

Breathing a small sigh of relief about the prospect of only a six-plus percent jump says something about the current state of things:

Let’s take a beat for Bullet Point Four. Despite the tense payer-provider relationships present today, the root cause of ballooning prices isn’t presented in the survey as a business arms race. Instead, it’s overutilization and too much junk food. That’s on us, as individuals and society. Despite the decades-long conversation about improving public health and better managing/preventing chronic disease, the catastrophic consequences loom larger by the day – both in terms of cost and outcomes.

All told, this survey is a harbinger of conversations about cost that have already started and will accelerate. It’s not hypothetical. Cost of care continues to keep leaders of healthcare organizations – and patients – up at night. It’s not stabilizing any time soon. And much of that cost ends up being placed on employers and individuals.

Expect this issue to be front and center next year. Expect hard questions. Steps to prepare for those conversations:

Finally, be fully the advocate you are. It’s why you took this job in this industry in the first place. To be an advocate for your patients, your colleagues, your team and yourself.

Oh, and go refill that coffee mug. You’re going to need it.

This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday Quick Think newsletter. Fill out the form to get that in your inbox every week.

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