Too Great a Burden: America's Families at Risk

Health care costs have become a growing burden for America’s families, as premiums and out-of-pocket expenses continue to rise at alarming rates. Left unchecked, health care costs will keep going up, forcing more and more American families into debt—and even into bankruptcy. According to public opinion polls, health care is now the number one domestic priority. At the same time, pressure on policymakers to take decisive action is expected to grow. In 2008, voters will head to the polls seeking, among other things, to see that the cost of care is brought under control.

In order to understand how high health care costs affect American families, Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to analyze data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Census Bureau. This analysis allowed us to determine how many non-elderly people are in families that will spend more than 10 percent of their pre-tax income, and how many will spend more than 25 percent of their pre-tax income, on health care costs in 2008.

Our analysis paints a stark picture: Nearly one out of four Americans under the age of 65—61.6 million people—is in a family that will spend more than 10 percent of its pre-tax income on health care costs in 2008. Shockingly, the vast majority of these people (82.4 percent) have health insurance. And 17.8 million non-elderly Americans—more than three-quarters of whom have health insurance—are in families that will spend more than 25 percent of their pre-tax income on health care costs in 2008.

This analysis also reveals the growth in the number of people in families with high health care costs over the last eight years. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of people who are in families that spend more than 10 percent of their pre-tax income on health care will have increased by nearly 19.9 million. Over that same period, the number of people in families that spend more than 25 percent of their pre-tax income on health care will have increased by nearly 6.2 million.

As more families join the ranks of those with high health care costs, a transformation is occurring in the way health reform is viewed by the American public. For decades, efforts to reform health care have been motivated by altruism. Now, with millions more families facing high health costs, reforming health care has become an issue of self-interest. When Americans cast their ballots in 2008, they are likely to vote for candidates who promise to bring down health care costs.





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