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Fifty Million in U.S. Financially Strained Due to Health Care

Study finds many spend more than 20 percent of income on health care

TUESDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 50 million young and middle-aged Americans, or about one in five people, live in families with very high financial burdens because of health care, spending 10 percent or more of their tax-adjusted income on health care services, researchers report in the Dec. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jessica Banthin, Ph.D., and Didem Bernard, Ph.D., from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Rockville, Md., estimated the number and characteristics of individuals in the United States younger than 65 years faced with high financial burdens for health care. Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys were used to identify those spending more than 10 percent of their tax-adjusted family income on health care services.

In 2003, the researchers estimated that a total of 48.8 million persons fell into this group, up 11.7 million from 1996. About 18.7 million individuals spent more than 20 percent of their income on health care services.

In addition, the authors found that many individuals included in their estimates had non-group health insurance. "Persons with non-group plans are nearly three times as likely to bear high total burdens as individuals in any other insurance category, including the uninsured," they write.

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