By Tina Reed

November 2nd, 2022

All signs point to a crushing surge in health care costs for patients and employers next year — and that means industry groups are about to brawl over who pays the price, Axios’ Caitlin Owens writes.

Why it matters: The surge could build pressure on Congress to stop ignoring the underlying costs that make care increasingly unaffordable for everyday Americans — and make billions for health care companies.

  • This year’s Democratic legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices was a rare case of addressing costs amid intense drug industry lobbying against it. Even so, it was a watered-down version.
  • But the drug industry isn’t alone in its willingness to fight for the status quo, and that fight frequently pits one industry group against another.

Where it stands: Even insured Americans are struggling to afford care, the inevitable result of years of cost-shifting by employers and insurers onto patients through higher premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

  • But employers are now struggling to attract and retain workers, and forcing employees to shoulder more costs seems like a less viable option.
  • The all-but-inevitable recession heading for the U.S. will make patients more cost-sensitive, putting families in a bind if they get sick.
  • Rising medical debt, increased price transparency and questionable debt collection practices have rubbed some of the good-guy sheen off of hospitals and providers.
  • All of this is coming to a boiling point. The question isn’t whether, but when.

The bottom line: Someone is going to have to pay for the coming cost surge, whether that’s patients, taxpayers, employers or the health care companies profiting off of the system. Each industry group is fighting like hell to make sure it isn’t them.