A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers examining the drivers of rising health care costs in the U.S. pointed to increased utilization created by increased consumer demand, new treatments, and more intensive diagnostic testing, as the most significant. However, Wendell Potter, a long-time PR representative for the health insurance industry, has noted that the group which sponsored this study, AHIP, is a front-group funded by various insurance companies. People in developed countries are living longer. The population of those countries is aging, and a larger group of senior citizens requires more intensive medical care than a young, healthier population. Advances in medicine and medical technology can also increase the cost of medical treatment. Lifestyle-related factors can increase utilization and therefore insurance prices, such as: increases in obesity caused by insufficient exercise and unhealthy food choices; excessive alcohol use, smoking, and use of street drugs. Other factors noted by the PWC study included the movement to broader-access plans, higher-priced technologies, and cost-shifting from Medicaid and the uninsured to private payers.
Heavy drinking does the body no favors. It can lead to weakened heart muscle and irregular heart rhythms, as well as dementia, cancer and stroke. But could drinking just a little be heart healthy? The science is unsettled. While some research suggests that moderate drinking (up to a drink a day for women and up to two for men) is linked with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, the research does not prove cause and effect, Gianos cautions. For example, it could be that people who drink regularly take time to relax with loved ones, and that may be what is providing the heart benefit.
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