Out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are increasing for more Americans

Out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance coverage premiums and medical services continue to outpace family incomes. The problem has gotten so bad that by 2006, 19 percent of Americans had a "high-financial burden for healthcare"--meaning they spend more than 10 percent of their before-tax income on such expenses, according a study published in Health Affairs. Fourteen percent of Americans were considered to have a high-financial burden in 2001. 

Particularly affected were those with middle- or higher-incomes covered privately, including those with employer-sponsored coverage. Overall, 30 percent of Americans either "incurred" such out-of-pocket expenses, or were uninsured, according to the study. 

Reform alone won't solve the problem. "We are going to have to see the kind of economic growth that is going to generate increases in families' incomes...[it] wasn't just that healthcare costs were rising, it's that family incomes were largely stagnant," says Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change and lead author of the study, Reuters reports.

These spending statistics aren't all negative, however, especially if people are getting their money's worth, says Robert Book, a health economist with conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation.

"Simply the fact that we're spending a lot on healthcare is not, by itself, a bad thing," he told Reuters

To learn more:
- read the study in Health Affairs
- read the Reuters article
- read this press release from the Center for Studying Health System Change