Despite ACA Coverage Gains, Millions Still Suffer ‘Catastrophic’ Health Care Costs

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While the Affordable Care Act has improved insurance coverage, many Americans still struggle with high health care costs, according to a study recently published in JAMA. The study found that in 2017, nearly 11 million people experienced “catastrophic medical expenses,” with privately insured people representing more than half of those. A “catastrophic expenditure” is classified as health care spending of more than 40 percent of a person’s income after food and housing costs. From 2010 to 2017, researchers found that 6 million people between 20 and 64 years old with private insurance dealt with “catastrophic expenditures” and their share of the total who reported them increased from 46 percent to nearly 54 percent. The study showed that people on Medicaid saw a decrease in catastrophic expenditures in 2017 while those who were privately insured did not. Researchers found that low-income people with private insurance had the worst results in the analysis and saw no benefit from the ACA. In 2017, 35 percent of low-income privately insured people struggled with catastrophic health care spending compared to 8 percent for people on Medicaid.

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