Federal programs face an average 9.3-percent increase in health-benefit premiums next year. The government pins the blame largely on the accelerating cost of prescription drugs.
A new report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute named an interesting component of prescription-drug cost hikes. According to EBRI, the number of new prescriptions per office visit increased 15 percent from 1993 to 1997, though the share of visits that resulted in a new prescription rose only slightly. EBRI says the discrepancy is explained by the fact that some people are walking out with many more prescriptions; it noted a 75-percent hike in the share of visits that resulted in five or more new prescriptions.