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High-cost healthcare consumers remain steady despite recession

October 25, 2012
by Pamela Tabar, Associate Editor
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The number of consumers in the highest brackets of healthcare spending (those who spend more than 10 percent of their annual income) did not increase during the recent recession, but a number of factors kept the surprising ratios in balance, according to a study released today by Health Affairs journal.

Although consumers were spending less out-of-pocket on healthcare services, consumer income also dropped during the study period of 2006-2009. The study, based on data from Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, shows a marked departure from the previous five-year period, where consumers’ healthcare spending soared from 14.4 percent to 19.2 percent.

The lower cost of generic drugs played the biggest role in balancing costs. From 2006 to 2009, the average out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs dropped from $258 per person to $162, the report says.

“Health care became much less affordable to families during the past decade overall,”noted Peter Cunningham, director of quantitative research at the Center for Studying Health System Change and author of the study.“Future trends in the affordability of health care to families will depend on trends in both overall health care costs and family incomes, both of which influence the demand for medical care.”

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