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The Widening Health Care Gap Between High- and Low-Wage Workers

Rising health care costs affect everyone, but pose a particular problem for low-wage workers and their families. Few of these workers are eligible for public insurance programs or can afford to purchase private insurance, and they are less likely than high-wage workers to work for companies offering health coverage. Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, this report finds that, between 1996 and 2003, low-wage workers were more likely than high-wage workers to be uninsured and to spend a proportionally higher share of family income on out-of-pocket health costs. They were less likely to have a usual source of care, less likely to have received preventive services, used fewer health care services overall, and were less likely to use the latest generation of medical technologies (e.g., prescription drugs approved within the prior 20 years). They were also more likely to report worse general and mental health than high-wage workers.

Publication Details



S. Glied and B. Mahato, The Widening Health Care Gap Between High- and Low-Wage Workers, The Commonwealth Fund, May 2008.