Affordability of medical care is a central focus of health care reform efforts. As health care costs continue to increase and the economy declines sharply, there is very little cushion in family budgets for health care costs, even for families with insurance coverage. Financial pressures on families from medical bills increase sharply when out-of-pocket spending for health care services exceeds 2.5 percent of family income, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Low-income families and people in poor health experience financial pressures at even lower levels of spending, largely because they have already accumulated large medical debts they are unable to pay off. Many Californians also incur substantial burdens from health care expenses, although the rate of medical bill problems is somewhat lower in California compared with the overall United States. Extended interviews with a select number of families facing problems with medical bills provide additional detail on how families are forced to make difficult trade-offs with other family necessities, put off paying other bills, cut down on other expenses and delay getting needed medical care.
Do you think that the current economic situation has had a negative impact on health care costs? Why or why not?