U.S. communities with high medical-cost burdens are more likely to be found in rural areas and in the South, according to a new study released by the Commonwealth Fund. Using data from the 2003 Community Tracking Study Household Surveywhich includes a representative sample of 60 communities nationwidethe study showed the variation in cost burdens among communities, as well as the underlying causes of some particularly high costs in some areas.
The pervasiveness of high medical-cost burdens within a community is driven by the number of people who lack health insurance as well as the number who have coverage but whose premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are high relative to their income, the study said. Among the 15 communities with the highest medical-cost burdens, an average of about 20% of people were uninsured during all or part of 2003, compared with 8.8% of people in the 15 communities with the lowest medical-cost burdens. The study also said that high healthcare costs are endemic to some regions, such as rural communities or those located in the South, partly because of the local economies, which tend to produce a higher number of low-wage jobs with less-generous health benefits.
West Palm Beach, Fla. and the nonmetropolitan areas of eastern North Carolina and northern Georgia topped the list of communities with the highest medical-cost burdens, while Washington, D.C. (including Virginia and Maryland), Nassau, N.Y., and Bridgeport, Conn., had the lowest rates. -- by Jessica Zigmond
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