In Health Care Spending, Americans Who Make the Least Contribute the Greatest Share of Income

October 2012

Health care costs consume a growing percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and economic literature has demonstrated that ultimately individuals pay these costs, either through taxes, reduced wages, or direct out-of-pocket and premium payments. In a HCFO-funded study, Patricia Ketsche, Ph.D., Kathleen Adams, Ph.D., and colleagues explored the distribution of the individual family’s financial burden from the combination of public and private health care spending. In their study, Ketsche and colleagues sought to evaluate the health care financing system in total to determine who truly pays for health care across the public and private funding streams and whether this financing system is equitable. They found that low-income families are disproportionately burdened by the current mix of public and private health care spending.