Los Angeles Times Looks at Financial Effects of Medical Costs
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the increasing number of U.S. residents who are "drastically altering their lives simply to hold on to their [health] insurance" as employers shift more costs to workers. Most affected by such cost shifting are lower-income and middle-class workers and those with chronic health problems. Such people are "delaying homeownership, putting off saving for their children's education, or otherwise sacrificing their financial security to guard against a catastrophic medical bill," the Times reports.
According to Families USA, the number of U.S. residents spending more than 25% of their income on health care rose by nearly one-quarter between 2000 to 2004, to 14.3 million people. The Times reports that the "strain on employees and their families isn't likely to abate any time soon," as health costs are expected to continue increasing and more employers limit their health plan contributions.
Glenn Melnick, a RAND economist and University of Southern California professor of health care finance, said he expects more middle-class families will become uninsured in the next few years. "The newly uninsured will be more mainstream. ... [M]ore people will be willing to drop their insurance, roll the dice and hope they don't get sick," Melnick said. The Times reports that states, facing their own budget pressures, are cutting funding for some health care programs, and residents "who have lost the battle to pay for insurance are increasingly finding a smaller safety net to fall back on" (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 4/4).