Family Medical Cost Burdens Vary Widely Across the U.S.

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<p>Nearly two of five Americans struggle with high medical expense burdens, with the problem most severe in rural areas and the South, according to a new study supported by The Commonwealth Fund.<br><br>As reported in <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=30748&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecommonwealthfund%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D583414%26%23doc583414">Overburdened and Overwhelmed: The Struggles of Communities with High Medical Cost Burdens</a>, an estimated 38 percent of people in the United States are saddled with high medical cost burdens relative to their income, ranging from 55 percent of residents of West Palm Beach, Fla., to 16 percent of residents of Bridgeport, Conn.<br><br>Peter J. Cunningham, a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change and the author of the new study, says that the pervasiveness of high medical cost burdens within a community is driven by the number of people who are either uninsured or have high insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health costs relative to their income.<br><br>High medical cost burdens appear to be endemic in U.S. communities with a high concentration of low-wage jobs, which tend to have no health benefits or less-generous benefits compared with higher-wage jobs. The problem is made worse, Cunningham says, by tighter eligibility standards for public health insurance programs, especially for adults, in these areas.</p>