Between 2001 and 2004, Americansparticularly the privately insuredfelt an increased burden of healthcare costs because of rising out-of-pocket expenses coupled with stagnant income.
More than one in six Americansor 17.7% of the nonelderly populationwere part of families that spent more than 10% of their after-tax income on health insurance premiums and direct healthcare costs in 2004, up from 15.9% in 2001. That 10% was the defining threshold for having a high financial burden, according to the national study published in the January-February edition of Health Affairs. Total average out-of-pocket spending on healthcare after accounting for inflation increased by $373 to $2,656 a person in 2004, which represented a 16% increase from 2001.
Meanwhile, average family incomes during the same period were largely unchanged after accounting for inflation. The researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said the increase in financial burden was driven by people with private insurance, most of whom had employer-sponsored coverage. Whats more, the authors concluded that the burdens are likely to continue to affect more people since growth in incomes is unlikely to keep pace with projections that overall private health insurance costs and out-of-pocket spending will rise 6% to 7% annually through 2016. -- by Cinda Becker
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