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Health care spending rising, which may pose problems for Americans

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Cabe Chadick
CHIP decision still up in the air amid shutdown
CHIP decision still up in the air amid shutdown

It's no secret that the cost of health insurance and treatment has been on the rise for decades. Now it's getting to the point that many Americans are now concerned about their finances in relation to these expenditures. This may be especially concerning to poorer Americans, and new analysis shows that the problems could disproportionately affect veterans.

From 1995 to 2014, health care spending around the world has risen sharply - due in large part to economic improvement - and climbed at an average rate of 3 percent per year, according to new research from the Global Burden of Disease Health Financing Collaborator Network, published in The Lancet. Two income groups have seen their health care expenditures rise the most on an annual average basis over this period: upper-middle income (up 5.9 percent) and lower-middle income (up 5 percent).

But of course, the amount spent per capita is widely disparate; with Somalia spending the least per person on health care - just $33 per person - and the U.S. spending by far the most, at more than $9,200 annually.

Americans spend more on healthcare than people in any other country.Americans spend more on healthcare than people in any other country.

What does that mean for Americans?
While the U.S. is one of the most developed countries with some of the highest average incomes in the world, it spends far more per person than countries of similar global status, according to an NPR interview with Dr. Joseph Dieleman, assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation at the University of Washington, and author of the paper. For instance, per-person health spending in the U.K. is only about $3,750 per year. The U.S. number is nearly 150 percent greater than that payout.

Moreover, Dieleman noted the U.S. has slightly worse health outcomes despite all that extra spending; the average life expectancy in the U.K. is about 1.8 years longer than it is in the U.S., the report said. Indeed, the U.S. ranks 12th globally in life expectancy despite the huge amounts being spent on health care per person each year.

Veterans left behind?
Despite the fact that an entire government agency exists to provide health care to former U.S. military members, new data further suggests that many veterans and their families are still underinsured, according to the Urban Institute. The good news is that since the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, uninsurance among vets under the age of 65 has dropped 40 percent, and at the end of 2015 sat at just 5.9 percent.

This change was seen most among veterans making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level - that is, low-income vets - who either moved into the expanded Medicaid coverage in some states, or onto individual exchanges, the report said. However, the study also found more could be done to further reduce rates of veteran uninsurance if the 19 states that have yet to expand Medicaid did so in the near future.

For these reasons, it might be vital for consumers across the U.S. to continually assess how they spend money on health care and coverage, and what they may be able to do to reduce those expenditures and maintain a healthy lifestyle.



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