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Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

futurework - Chapter 2, Box 2.1 Changing Health Care Benefits

American workers’ health benefits have changed dramatically in recent years, and more changes are sure to come. At least four major forces are driving the changes:

_ Increasing costs. Healthcare costs are growing—and are projected to continue to grow more rapidly than the overall cost of living, workers’ incomes, and the economy as a whole.

_ Changes in medical care. Technological advances and economic forces are changing medical care. Each year brings fewer and shorter hospital stays and better treatments for more conditions (including advances in prescription drugs that may reduce or eliminate the need for hospitalizations for many people). Increasing complexity and levels of specialization heighten the need to coordinate patient care and monitor its quality.

_ Workers’ changing needs and preferences. Changes in family structure, lifestyle choices, and the nature of work itself are changing workers’ needs and preferences in health benefits. Workers seek benefits that fit a diversity of nontraditional work models, including flexible work schedules and locations, second and third careers, and partial retirement.

_ Evolving regulation and government programs. The shape and reach of workers’ benefits is influenced by tax incentives and government programs such as Medicare. Insurance regulation is increasingly focused on patients’ rights, as a result of the dominance of managed care. These changes will affect the availability, cost, and content of insurance.

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