There were three articles in WSJ today relating to healthcare:
- GE and their unions settled on a four contract. GE says its total health-care costs have risen 45% to $1.4 billion in 2002 from $965 million in 1999. This year, it expects its health-care costs will rise around 15%. Employees contributions will rise anywhere from 30% to 50% over current levels [article – subscription needed].
- “Just look at that guy, his belly’s almost touching the steering wheel…It’s gross.” At Rockford Products Corporation, employees are criticizing each other over their eating habits, their weight, and their old age. The article profiles how lifestyle plays into healthcare costs [article – subscription needed].
- HMOs are trying to become more proactive the care of their customers. A high risk pregency called for bedrest. The HMO called for a housekeeper and a hospital bed. Interesting approach [article-subscription needed].
Why I am talking about this for the second time in a week? First, I think there are unserved markets here. The Census Bureau put the number of uninsured at 41 million people. A private policy for a family of four runs about $1000 per month. I would think that someone could fill this gap with an affordable solution.
I also think that this going to become a personal issue for many people. How will people deal with healthcare costs of parents become older? Should allergy medicine be paid for by insurance? Should people be penalized for the lifestyle choices they make or don’t make? These are highly charged, emotional issues.
I can’t say I have the answer for all of this, but I don’t think the current system can support the changes taking place in demographics, genetics, and technology. We’ll keep talking about it though.