Madness Over Medical

By Karen Bitz McIntyre | August 13, 2008

Healthcare is a huge issue in the U.S. The rising cost of healthcare and the growing percentage of the population without access to reasonable healthcare will be one of this election year's biggest topics.

A recent survey conducted by National Public Radio in two key election "swing" states, Ohio and Florida, found that more than a quarter of respondents are having trouble—or have a family member having trouble—paying their medical bills. The result is an alarming number of respondents putting off seeking medical treatment, skipping recommended tests or avoiding filling a prescription.

The rising cost of health insurance—as well as increasing limitations in many plans—are a major social and economic problem facing the U.S.,  impacting both individuals and companies.

And how healthcare evolves in the U.S. will certainly impact the nonwovens industry as medical applications—including drapes and gowns, gauze and face masks—continue to be an important market for nonwovens. Troubles in the healthcare market, specifically paying for proper healthcare, have forced hospitals to demand low costs supplies, hence putting the squeeze on nonwovens manufacturers servicing this market.

Of course, squeezed pricing is nothing new to nonwovens, and the medical market, like many others, has responded to cost pressures by streamlining operations and other cost savings measures. These tactics can only take them so far, however, and more and more nonwovens producers have been forced to raise prices. This month, Ahlstrom, PGI, Johns Manville, Colbond and Buckeye are the latest companies reporting price hikes (see Nonwovens News, page 18). They are just a few of the many nonwovens producers and ancillary companies that have responded to increased raw material and energy costs with such measures in recent months. In the past, some key end users have been resistant to such measures, let's hope they work this time.

As always, we appreciate your comments.

Karen Bitz McIntyre