Health Care Costs Account for More Than 10% of Income in 50M Households
Almost 50 million U.S. residents younger than age 65 live in households that spend more than 10% of their annual incomes on health care, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Scripps Howard/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
For the study, Jessica Banthin and Didem Bernard of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality examined federal consumer surveys conducted in 1996 and 2003 that included data on out-of-pocket health care expenditures. According to the study, 48.8 million respondents younger than age 65 lived in households that spent more than 10% of their annual income on health care in 2003, compared with 11.7 million in 1996.
Among those 48.8 million respondents, about 18.7 million lived in households that spent more than 20% of their annual income on health care in 2003, the study found. The study also found that respondents ages 55 to 64, those with low incomes, women, those who lived outside of metropolitan areas, those with chronic medical conditions and those with individual health insurance were more likely to spend more on health care.
The study estimated that 17.1 million respondents had inadequate financial protection from high out-of-pocket health expenditures in 2003. Among those 17.1 million respondents, 9.3 million had private group health insurance, 1.3 million had individual coverage and 6.6 million had public coverage, according to the study.
"We found that the prevalence of high financial (health) burdens increased across the population as a whole and among several subgroups between 1996 and 2003," Banthin and Bernard said. Banthin added, "We also noted that high out-of-pocket burdens are associated with delaying or forgoing medical care for financial reasons, behavior that can have severe consequences for those in poor health" (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/13).