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Study finds rapid growth in health costs hurts economic performance of US industries
Date:7/23/2009

sing health insurance premiums force employers to increase employees' total compensation, since employers cannot easily reduce wages to completely offset premium increases. For some employers, explicit contracts such as those with labor unions may preclude wage cuts; other employers may be prevented from reducing wages by the need to pay competitive wages or a desire to avoid damaging worker morale.

Pressure to increase compensation, in turn, may lead employers to reduce health benefits, cut employment and raise prices, ultimately resulting in lower output and profits. Industries where large percentages of workers receive employer-sponsored health insurance face more pressure to increase compensation and as a result are more likely to face adverse consequences from health care cost growth, according to the study.

"U.S. employers have limited wage growth and reduced health benefits to deal with rising health insurance premiums, but such strategies have not completely offset the growing burden of health care costs," said study co-author Dr. Jos J. Escarce, a RAND researcher and a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Job losses and worse economic performance have been the additional consequences for industries that provide insurance to most of their workers."

While some worry that the growth in spending on health care is bad for the nation's economy, others argue that it causes no fundamental harm because more people become employed in the health care industry as such spending grows.

"Of course, health care cost growth increases employment in health care, but other industries face job losses as a consequence" Sood said.

RAND researchers underscore that their findings do not necessarily mean that rapid growth in health care costs results in large job losses in the overall economy, since losses in industries that provide a high proportion of their workers with employer-sponsored insurance are likely t
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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