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Report sees health care costs doubling

An expected doubling of health care costs in the next 10 years makes it more important than ever that the government coordinate a national health care system, private groups said Wednesday. "We've got to do something to get health care costs under control or health care is going to be unaffordable for millions of Americans," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA Foundation.

A report by Pollack's group and Citizen Action estimated that health care spending in the United States will rise from a projected $606-billion this year to nearly $1.5-trillion by the turn of the century.

The report does not recommend any specific solutions to the problem of rising costs, but at a news conference Pollack said, "This is a national problem. . . . Ultimately we need a national system."

Pollack and Robert Brandon, vice president of Citizen Action, blamed the rising costs on a variety of factors, including insurance companies' inefficiencies, escalating fees for doctors and hospitals and uncoordinated use of expensive, sophisticated technology.

The report, which lists state-by-state health care spending, identified Massachusetts as the largest per-capita spender. There, state and federal governments, residents, employers and other private sources will pay an estimated $3,031 for every man, woman and child in the state this year.

The national average is estimated to be $2,425 this year, rising to $5,515 by 2000, according to the report.

California was the next highest spender, at $2,894 per capita, followed by New York, $2,818; Nevada, $2,757; Rhode Island, $2,707; Connecticut, $2,699; and North Dakota, $2,661, according to the report.

By the turn of the century, per capita health care spending in these states will be more than $6,000, the report said.

The lowest levels of per capita spending were in South Carolina, $1,689; Idaho, $1,726; Mississippi, $1,751; Wyoming, $1,756; and Utah, $1,784.

Florida ranked 20th on the list, with estimated 1990 costs of $2,427. The report projects per capita spending will surge to $5,520 in Florida by 2000.

The report's estimates are based on Medicare and Medicaid data and state spending figures compiled by the Health Care Financing Administration.

"Increasingly, health care is becoming a luxury item that fewer and fewer individuals and families will be able to afford," Brandon said. "The already frayed safety net will be in shreds by the end of the decade."

Families USA Foundation is a non-profit group working on behalf of low- and middle-income senior citizens and their families.

Citizen Action is a national grass-roots citizens' organization with chapters in 31 states.

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