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Affluent Americans Also Struggle To Pay Medical Bills

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Many U.S. adults with annual household incomes over $75,000 say they are facing financial pain because of the rising cost of health care.[@@]

Researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, have published figures supporting that conclusion in a report on a recent survey of 1,003 U.S. adults ages 21 and over.

Although only 1% of the participants with annual households over $75,000 report being uninsured, compared with 24% of the participants with household incomes under $35,000, 34% of the affluent participants said they are “not too satisfied” or “not at all satisfied” with their level of out-of-pocket costs for health care. The level of dissatisfaction among the affluent participants was comparable to the low-income participants’ 41% dissatisfaction rate.

In theory, the affluent participants might be able to lower their out-of-pocket costs by buying health insurance policies with richer benefits.

Only 20% of the survey participants said they have responded to rising health care costs by looking for cheaper health insurance.

Although the affluent participants said they were about as likely as the low-income participants to have responded to rising health care costs by switching to using generic prescription drugs and contributing to flexible spending accounts, even many of the affluent participants reported taking potentially dangerous steps to cope.

Although 58% of the affluent participants who have experienced health care cost increases said they are responding to rising health care costs by taking better care of themselves, 38% said they now go to the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms, 29% said they delay going to the doctor, and 14% said they have decided not to take prescribed medication.

The EBRI researchers found that 7% of the survey participants with high household incomes said medical bills have hit them so hard that they have had difficulty paying for food, heat, housing and other basic necessities.

The survey results suggest that rising health care costs may be affecting high-income participants’ ability to invest in annuities, mutual funds and other financial services products. To pay medical bills, 8% of the high-income participants said they have used up all or most of their savings and 17% said they have cut retirement plan contributions.


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