Think of it as uninvited liposuction of your wallet: spiraling healthcare costs have been whacking away at the wages of working-class Americans. Even though workers are producing more, inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped 2.6%, or nearly $1,000 annually, since 2000. Both employees and employers have felt the squeeze of rising medical prices, as employers pay more to cover their end of health plans and have less to offer employees in the way of raises; benefits now devour 30.2% of employers' compensation, with the remaining money going to wages. When all of this is coupled with a sagging economy, a family with just routine healthcare expenses faces a tough challenge to pay the bills. Is there anything approximating relief in sight?
* Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health; and a practicing oncologist
* Victor Fuchs, professor of economics and health research and policy, emeritus, at the Stanford University Center for Health Policy