The cost of healthcare continues to rise at a double-digit pace. Healthcare costs increased 11.2% in 2004 and are projected to increase as much as 13.1% in 2005.

What You Can Do

While we can’t stop the aging process, we can take steps to ensure a longer and healthier life while helping to control our healthcare costs.

If exercise is not part of your regular daily routine, make time to get moving. Walking three or four times a week at a brisk pace for 30 minutes can help lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

What and how much we eat can have an impact of our weight and risk for diseases. There are lots of new diets promising immediate weight-loss – sometimes without even having to exercise – that may work in the short term. But for long-lasting results, follow a balanced diet with sensible portions. Supersizing food portions can supersize your body! The food pyramid guide can get you started toward a healthy diet.

Get regular health check-ups. Early diagnosis can result in a quicker return to good health – and, in some cases, even the difference between life and death. Ask your doctor about the cost and health benefits of recommended treatments and procedures. If a prescription drug is recommended, ask the doctor if you can use a less expensive generic or over-the-counter medication.

By staying healthy and being a wise health care consumer, you can make a difference.

The United States spends as much as $5,000 per person on healthcare. Laborers are seeing most or all of their negotiated pay increases go toward their health care coverage. Why are medical costs rising faster than the overall rate of inflation?

Aging Population

The average age of Laborers, and all Americans, is increasing. By 2008, about 50 percent of the US population will be 65 years of age or older. As we get older, we tend to use more health care services – – affecting the overall cost of healthcare.

Lifestyle Choices

Sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and seven out of ten do not exercise regularly. Inactivity is one of the leading causes of many chronic diseases. According to a recent study from the RAND Corporation, health plans pay 36 percent more in medical benefits and 77 percent more in prescription drug benefits for obese individuals.

Medical Technology

Conditions are being diagnosed sooner, allowing for better recovery rates, but a price tag is attached. Some health economists estimate that new technologies – everything from increased use of MRIs to advanced surgical procedures to targeted chemotherapies – may be responsible for as much as 50 percent of medical cost growth.

Prescription Drug Costs

Up to 20 percent of the increase in healthcare costs may be attributed to prescription drug costs. In addition to the availability of new drugs, a dramatic increase in advertising aimed at consumers, particularly television advertising, has boosted the cost of drugs. In 2002, larger pharmaceutical manufacturers spent 14 percent of their revenue on research and development and 31 percent on marketing and administration.

[Steve Clark]