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WA advocates take on sharply rising health care costs

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Friday, December 8, 2023   

Reports from the Insurance Commissioner's office and the state Attorney General reveal an analysis of what they call "the true costs of health care" in Washington. Based on the results, the Economic Opportunity Institute is asking state lawmakers to do more to address consolidation and sharply rising costs.

Health-care costs nationwide have been on the rise. The institute's senior policy associate, Sam Hatzenbeler, said the AG's report shows costs in Washington state outpace the national average. What she described as "insufficient regulation" has led to more consolidation of health-care providers and much higher prices for patients.

"We are seeing that they're able to monopolize the market and charge higher and higher prices," she said. "Patients, labor, business - we're saying, 'Enough is enough.' The bottom line is that Washington consumers are being priced out of the health care that we need."

The Institute has launched a Fair Health Prices campaign to educate consumers and prompt state lawmakers to take action. The group is calling for more affordable drug prices, regulating health-care provider mergers and addressing anti-competitive contracting strategies.

All these proposed fixes, Hatzenbeler said, would increase accountability on spending and help slow the skyrocketing costs of health care - costs the state Insurance Commissioner's report projects will go even higher.

"Annual out-of-pocket expenses for people with insurance can reach up to almost $19,000 a year," she said. "The Office of Insurance Commissioner just approved a 9% average increase for plans in 2024; that is on top on an 8% average increase that we saw in plans this year."

The Institute also said 81% of Washington residents report worrying about health-care cost increases. Large providers have said higher costs are driven by aggressive medical research and the latest treatments for illness and disease. Despite these claims, the United States has the lowest life expectancy rate among the world's developed nations.

Disclosure: Economic Opportunity Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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