Healthcare payments burden low-income Americans the most, study finds

Healthcare payments are a greater share of income for poorer households than higher-income Americans, according to a RAND Corp. study published in Health Services Research.

For the study, RAND researchers analyzed multiple sources of survey data on household income, medical expenses and health benefits. The study looked at all payments households made toward healthcare, including employer contributions and taxes.

Researchers found that households in the bottom fifth of income groups allocate, on average, 33.9 percent of their income toward healthcare. For households in the highest-income group, that percentage averages 16 percent of total income. Families in the middle three income tiers pay, on average, between 19.8 percent and 23.2 percent of their income toward healthcare. 

Across all income levels, annual healthcare payments per person averaged $9,393, or 18.7 percent of average family income. RAND found out-of-pocket spending, while significant, reflected only 9.1 percent of healthcare costs. The bulk of healthcare costs are paid through health insurance premiums and taxes, researchers said.

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