Why Are Wealthier Americans Spending So Much More on Health Care?
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Why Are Wealthier Americans Spending So Much More on Health Care?

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

While some economists have celebrated the recent slowdown in health care spending, new research suggests that the numbers merely reflects a growing trend among low and middle-income Americans to put off care due to increasingly high costs.

The wealthiest Americans, on the other hand, have increased their spending on health care, reversing a trend toward equality in health care use since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

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“We spend more on medical care than in any other country, and those dollars are increasingly concentrated on the wealthy, who have good insurance and enough cash to afford skyrocketing deductibles and co-payments,” lead author Samuel Dickman said in a statement.

Medical Spending

Source: HealthAffairs

The study found that the wealthiest Americans (those with a household income of above $101,000 for a family of three) spent $1,743 more per person than the poorest Americans (those making less than $23,000), and 23 percent more than middle-income Americans. The figures were adjusted to account for the higher burden of illnesses among poor and middle-class Americans.

From 2004 to 2012, health care spending by wealthy American grew by nearly 20 percent, while spending by the poorest Americans shrank by almost 4 percent. The authors attribute the shift to widening U.S. income inequality, the slower recovery from the recession for poor and middle-class Americans, and the increase in health insurance co-payments and deductibles.