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Poll Finds Americans Blame Insurers, Drug Companies for Rising Health Costs
Date:3/24/2010

But the real drivers are higher fees, increased utilization and more sophisticated and costly medical technologies, some experts say

WEDNESDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of Americans are "extremely" or "very worried" about rising costs for health care and health insurance, and a majority place the blame on drug and insurance company profits, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.

The poll was conducted in the days leading up to Sunday's historic House of Representatives' vote to reform health care and attempt to rein in escalating costs. The vote was followed by President Barack Obama's signature Tuesday, making the bill law.

Still, some health economists and other experts debate whether the blame revealed in the poll is justified. Some health economists say insurance and pharmaceutical company profits amount to only about 2 percent of total health care spending.

Instead, fees charged by doctors and hospitals, as well as expanding use of increasingly sophisticated and expensive health-care technologies, are the primary cause of escalating health-care costs, these experts contend.

"For people to blame drug and insurance company profits for their predicament is just ignorant. People simply do not know what drives costs," said Uwe E. Reinhardt, the James Madison Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University. "What drives prices is the amount of services people are getting, plus the prices doctors and hospitals charge for those services."

Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive, added: "These findings show how little most people understand the economics of health care. Increased profits of insurers and drug companies (if they have increased at all) cannot possibly account for the increases in premiums. Many health-care economists attribute the increased cost of care to increased demand and utilization, increased prices and the i
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