Reports From the Field: Pharmaceutical expense cited in rising health care costs

A majority of health care benefits purchasers cite prescription drugs as the major driver of U.S. health care costs, according to a new study by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

In a survey of more than 500 business decision makers, 64% said that prescription drugs are responsible for double-digit increases in health care costs, and 62% said that direct-to-consumer advertising is the main cause for the dramatic increases in pharmaceutical costs.

The benefits managers cited consumers (33%) and hospitals (30%) as the next biggest driver of health care cost increases. The aging of baby boomers, demand for drugs, and treatment as the overall use of the health care system were reasons for inclusion of consumers as cost drivers.

"Rising hospital and pharmaceutical costs, new technology, increased utilization, and government regulations are stretching health care affordability to its limits. Add to that the changing demographics of an aging baby boomer population, and the problem, if not addressed, will worsen," says Scott Serota, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

BCBSA and the 43 independently licensed Blue Plans have begun an initiative, including a series of research projects, to find ways to make health care more affordable while maintaining quality and choice, Serota says.

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