Study: Care under reform affordable for 'majority of families'

Under federal assistance available with the Affordable Care Act, at least 90 percent of families living above the federal poverty level will be able to afford healthcare insurance. However, high out-of-pocket costs still could mean some families will not be able to afford health-related expenses, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report.

The report, "Will The Affordable Care Act Make Health Insurance Affordable?", reviewed consumer spending and compared this data to costs related to purchasing health insurance through the health insurance exchanges (scheduled to begin in 2014) and with typical out-of-pocket healthcare spending.

A majority of American families--even lower-income families--would have room to cover premiums and typical out-of-pocket costs, the report said. For example, households between 100 and 150 percent of the poverty level (up to $33,525 for a family of four) would spend 75 percent of their resources on necessities--such as child care, food, housing, taxes and transportation--which leaves coverage for health-related expenses.

However, some families will continue to struggle to afford their healthcare because of the high out-of-pocket costs. For example, 10.8 to 17.5 percent of families with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of poverty--and about a quarter of families earning between 200 and 300 percent of poverty, who have high out-of-pocket costs--could not afford all their necessities plus health-related costs.

The concerns about high out-of-pocket costs are notable and "should be addressed so that people who become very sick don't face out-of-pocket costs that they are unable to afford," study co-author Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement.

For more information:
- see the Commonwealth Fund report
- view the National Journal article