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Despite Recession, Share of Americans with High Medical Costs Mostly Unchanged
Lower Spending on Prescription Drugs Helped Offset Declining Family Incomes Between 2006-2009
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Supported by the Commonwealth Fund, the study defined high medical cost burden as spending more than 10 percent of before-tax family income out of pocket on health insurance premiums and medical care. In the study, HSC Senior Fellow Peter J. Cunningham, Ph.D., analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) for 2001 and 2006-09. Sample sizes of about 28,000 people aged 65 and younger were included for each of the survey years.
The study, detailed in a Health Affairs’ article titled “Despite the Recession’s Effects on Incomes and Jobs, the Share of People with High Medical Costs Was Mostly Unchanged,” found that the lack of change in high medical cost burden reflected both declines in family incomefrom about $65,000 on average in 2006 to $61,000 in 2009and decreases in out-of-pocket spending for health servicesfrom $1,454 in 2006 to $1,231 to 2009.
“Almost the entire decline in out-of-pocket spending for services reflects lower spending on prescription drugs, which dropped from $258 a person in 2006 to $162 in 2009,” Cunningham said. “And, because the lower drug spending wasn’t explained by declining use, the likely explanation is increased use of generic drugs.”
Other key study findings include:
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nations changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research.