Reduction in medical costs likely to continue

The cost of health care appears to be on a downward trend, according to a new report.A new report revealed that the downward shift in medical costs in the United States is more likely a trend than an apparition, and an increasing number of people taking advantage of this more affordable health care system could mean more jobs for those pursuing a nursing career or medical assisting career.

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted a slight increase in medical costs next year, but a lower overall growth.1 Although health care coverage is expected to be extended to some 34 million Americans through the Affordable Care Act,2 PwC calculated that this will not affect the overall cost of health care.

“There are some underlying changes to the system that are having an impact, and we can expect lower increases as we come out of the recession,” Mike Thompson, a principal of PwC’s Health Research Institute, told The Associated Press. “[Cost] is still going up, but not as much as it used to.”

There are a number of factors that could be contributing to this trend of slowing down the rise of the cost of health care. PwC noted four significant factors: patients going to clinics rather than hospitals for routine services, employers contracting directly with hospital systems, the government penalizing hospitals that have too many patientsĀ they’ve treated coming back with problemsĀ and employees paying higher deductibles.3

Interestingly, this trend marks a departure from the way that the cost of medical care has been affected by economic recessions in the past.4

“Historically, medical inflation jumps after the nation recovers from a recession,” PwC said in the report. “But changes in how the industry operates and how average consumers choose health care appear to be having a more sustained effect.”

The combination of lower health care costs and more Americans having access to insurance, and therefore medical care, may increase the demand for employees in this sector. This is clearly reflected in employment projections for registered nurses. Between 2010 and 2020, more than 700,000 RN positions are expected to be added to the workforce.5

Medical assistants are reaping the benefits as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants is expected to grow by a whopping 31 percent between 2010 and 2020. That’s much faster than the average growth rate of all occupations, which is 14 percent.6

1 The Associated Press, ‘Report: Slow down in health care costs to continue,’ June 20, 2013 – http://www.omaha.com/article/20130620/AP09/130629970
2 The White House, ‘Deficit-Reducing Health Care Reform,’ 2103 – http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/reform/deficit-reducing-health-care-reform
3 The Associated Press, ‘Report: Slow down in health care costs to continue,’ June 20, 2013 – http://www.omaha.com/article/20130620/AP09/130629970
4 Wayne, Alex, Bloomberg, ‘Health Cost Growth Slows Further Even as Economy Rebounds,’ June 17, 2013 – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-18/health-cost-growth-slows-further-even-as-economy-rebounds.html
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Registered Nurses,’ March 29, 2012 – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Medical Assistants,’ March 29, 2013 – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm