The Growing Financial Burden of Health Care

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<p>Rising health care costs, slowed economic growth, and stagnant incomes have created greater financial burdens for U.S. families in recent years--and raised the likelihood that they will face problems paying bills, accumulate medical debt, and even forgo needed medical care.<br><br>In a <a href="/publications/in-the-literature/2008/jan/financial-burden-of-health-care--2001-2004
">Commonwealth Fund-supported study</a> in the new issue of <em>Health Affairs,</em> researchers with the Center for Studying Health System Change and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that more than one of six Americans--nearly 18 percent of the nonelderly population--lived in families that spent more than 10 percent of their after-tax income on health care in 2004, up from about 16 percent in 2001. The authors of "Financial Burden of Health Care, 2001-2004" say the overwhelming majority of people who face such a high financial burden had private health insurance.<br><br>After accounting for general inflation, total average out-of-pocket spending on health care increased by $373 to $2,656 a person in 2004, about a 16 percent increase from 2001. In contrast, average family incomes during the same period were largely unchanged after accounting for inflation. For people with employer coverage, out-of-pocket spending for premiums and services rose $553 to $3,211, a 21 percent increase between 2001 and 2004 after accounting for inflation.</p>