Three ways to prepare for higher healthcare costs in 2021

BOSTON — Joe Pappalardo has been battling multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer, for six months.

Outside Massachusetts General Hospital Wednesday night, Pappalardo said he doesn’t like to think about the cost for his treatment.

“It’s a big deal” he said. “It’s expensive. I mean, aside from trying to continue to live, of course, it’s a reality we have to deal with.”

Healthcare costs impact all of us, and there’s concerns we could all be paying a little more in 2021 and beyond.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that studies national health issues, recently looked at how the pandemic is impacting the health care industry.

KFF researchers found “the impact of COVID-19 on 2021 premiums” ranged from a 3.4% decrease to an 8.4% increase.

“The most common factors that insurers cited as driving up health costs in 2021 were the continued cost of COVID-19 testing, the potential for widespread vaccination, the rebounding of medical services delayed from 2020, and morbidity from deferred or foregone care,” KFF said in its report.

“Everyone is always concerned about health care costs today and in the future,” said George Padula, Chief Investment Officer at Modera Wealth in Boston.

“When we do our planning, we tell people you know, healthcare costs are rising well above inflation, so you have to expect that,” Padula said.

Padula said there are three things people can do right now to prepare:

  • Open a Health Savings Account and start socking money away
  • Sign up for a prescription service through a drug store or pharmacy to have access to better prices
  • Advocate for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions

“You’re always able to ask ahead of time, what will be my costs? What are the costs for this service?” Padula said.

Boston 25 first reported on the pandemic’s potential impact on health care costs in August.

The American Benefits Council conducted a survey of more than 100 Fortune 500 companies.

When asked what the potential effects of increased health care costs could be, more than 80 percent of the companies responded “increased premiums.”

Unfortunately, the long term effect of the pandemic is still unknown, and we could all pay the price—one way or another—long after 2021.

“There is a lot to be optimistic about,” Padula said. “When you think about just the innovation for these new vaccines and how quickly [they were created], that innovation and the technology has to permeate across multiple industries, so I think that can only be beneficial moving forward.”

Boston 25 contacted media representatives with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, Anthem, United Health Care, Humana and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. They did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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