Share of Americans with High Medical Costs Has Remained Constant, Even Through Recession

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<p>The percentage of U.S. adults with high medical costs held steady, at around 19 percent, during the period 2006 to 2009, despite the severe recession during this time, a <a href="/publications/journal-article/2012/oct/despite-recessions-effects-incomes-and-jobs-share-people-high">new <em>Health Affairs</em> study</a> finds. </p><p>According to Peter Cunningham, Ph.D., the author of the Commonwealth Fund–supported analysis, declines in family income during the recession were offset by a decrease in out-of-pocket spending on health services—a reflection, he says, of greater reliance on generic prescription drugs, not a decrease in the use of services. Cunningham defined high medical cost burden as spending out-of-pocket more than 10 percent of pre-tax family income on health insurance premiums and medical care.</p>
<p>Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will improve the affordability of health care for people who lack health insurance or have coverage through the individual insurance market, through increased eligibility for Medicaid and subsidies for private plans. Cunningham points out that additional provisions in the Affordable Care Act that are designed to encourage more efficient use of services may lower health care costs to patients and the health care system overall. </p>