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Miami leads U.S. in health care costs

caines | 5/24/2012, 6 a.m.

Price for family of four tops $24K/year Health care costs for a family in the U.S. are now more than a whopping $20,000/year for the first time ever. Thats according to a newly-released report, the 2012 Milliman Medical Index [MMI], which measures the total cost of health care for a typical family of four covered by a preferred provider plan [PPO]. As has been the case for several years, Miami continues to be the most expensive city studied. The average cost for care for a four-member family is now $24,965/year. The report also shows that Miami has the highest health care costs among 14 cities surveyed by the respected consulting firm. And while the rate of increase is growing slower as compared to previous years, families across the nation were still hit with a 6.9 percent jump. The total cost includes those incurred by employees and their employers.

Understanding the health care cost dilemma

But whats the reason for Miamis unenviable position at the top and why are costs here 120 percent of the national average exceeding costs in cities like Chicago, Boston and New York City? The report points to several reasons: employers have continued to pass on a greater percentage of costs onto their workers; out-patient service costs have once again risen; providers are ordering more tests and other treatments, especially in Miami, in order to protect themselves from the regions excessive number of malpractice suits; and the surge in health care fraud. Despite the rise in health care costs, many families dont realize how much they are actually paying. Thats because, according to the Milliman report, people tend to only consider their out-of-pocket costs [now averaging $3,470/year in co-payments and deductibles]. But when one factors in the cost of payroll deductions [$5,114 on average per year], that means that employees are paying approximately $8,600/year employers pay the remainder. Health care policy experts in Miami believe that the situation will become even more critical as the State continues to slice Medicaid rates, forcing providers to look to employer-based insurance as a means of offsetting loses and locking in lower rates. And while families and individuals across the nation wait for the verdict on the federal Affordable Care Act which is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court after being challenged on constitutional grounds, the number of uninsured Americans continues to climb. Health care experts say that if the trend continues we will see more and more employers unable to afford health care for their employees. It is estimated that in Miami-Dade County, there are more than 600,000 uninsured residents and that without real health care reform, the solution to rising costs will be even more difficult, if not impossible, to find. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com