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As tax season approaches, some consumers are waiting for their refund checks to spend on a long-delayed purchase — a visit to the doctor or dentist.

U.S. consumers boosted their out-of-pocket health spending by 60% in the week after they got a tax refund, according to new research from JPMorgan Chase & Co., based on data from Chase customer accounts.

Spending stayed high for about 2 1/2 months, with about two-thirds of the extra spending money going to in-person payments to doctors and dentists. Much of the rest was used to pay down past bills.

Health insurers and employers have raised copays and deductibles for consumers, making them bear a larger portion of the cost of care when they go see a health care provider. As a result, patients sometimes lack the cash to get the care they may need, according to the report.

“Cash-flow dynamics are a significant driver of out-of-pocket spending for health care,” the study found. “Even when consumers knew with near-certainty the size and source of a major cash infusion, they still waited until the infusion arrived before spending.”

The researchers found that availability of cash had far less of an impact on health-spending decisions among those with credit cards, or who had higher bank-account balances.

—Read Top 10 Ways Military Families Plan to Spend Tax Refunds in 2016 on ThinkAdvisor.


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