Report: slowdown in healthcare costs continue

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- The United States spends more than 2.7 trillion dollars a year on healthcare, well above any other developed country.

And with the ever-changing face of healthcare, it's hard to know what to expect. According to a new report conducted by the accounting and consulting giant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC projects lower overall growth in medical costs next year. Even after the economy gains strength and millions of uninsured people receive coverage under Obamacare.

For years US healthcare spending has grown much faster than the overall economy and workers' wages and according to new data from PwC’s Health Institute, since the recession those annual increases have slowed dramatically and the debate is now whether or not that's a continuing trend.

PwC recently released a report on healthcare costs and Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute, says they have found a slowdown in the rate of growth for healthcare costs.

“Is an even more significant slowdown in the rate of growth in healthcare spending and it's particularly telling that it's not just the economy, that is causing this slowdown in medical inflation," said Connolly.

Connolly says four major factors are pushing costs down next year.

-One, patients are seeking more affordable routine services in settings like clinics springing up in retail stores.

-Two, major employers are contracting directly with hospital systems that have a proven record for complicated procedures such as heart surgery.

-Three, the government is ramping up penalties on hospitals that have too many patients coming back with problems soon after being discharged.

-Four, employers' on-going efforts to shift more costs to workers through higher annual deductibles.

However, local physician, Dr. Brent Prosser, of the Grand Junction Gastroenterology Center, has a different view. He feels one of the biggest problems is that healthcare costs have been increasing at a very high rate.

“The fact of the matter is that healthcare costs are always going to go up, I just don't see a future where healthcare costs suddenly become cheaper. The problem there is that people here need a lot of healthcare and there's a huge segment of the population that is aging into an area where they need a lot of healthcare," said Dr. Prosser.

Dr. Prosser says doctors in the Grand Valley have a sense of community and work with each other to ensure patient costs do not inflate dramatically.

“Western Colorado is different than the rest of the United States because the physicians here work more cooperatively and we certainly understand the idea of cost sharing and that the pie is big enough and that we can all have enough of the pie. We need to look out for the best interests of the patients and that results in the best outcome," says Dr. Prosser.

One thing the two do agree on is developing a healthcare system that puts the value on health.

“What we need to get to is a system where we all pay to stay healthy because then it's a different set of incentives on those providers," said Connolly.

“I think that's exactly right, I think that national education programs would be the key. Starting in elementary school, trying to educate people to eat right, exercise and be healthy," said Dr. Prosser.

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