How Much Do Marketplace and Other Nongroup Enrollees Spend on Health Care Relative to Their Incomes?

By Linda J. Blumberg, John Holahan, and Matthew Buettgens
Urban Institute, December 2015

In this paper, we examine premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as total financial burdens for individuals with different characteristics enrolled in ACA-compliant nongroup coverage. We show that despite the additional assistance available, individuals across the income distribution who are ineligible for Medicaid can still face very high expenditures. At the median, financial burdens can be reasonably high, particularly for those with incomes between 300 and 400 percent of FPL (Figure 1). As medical care needs increase, however, financial burdens grow appreciably across the income distribution. Even with federal financial assistance, 10 percent of 2016 nongroup marketplace enrollees with incomes below 200 percent of FPL will pay at least 18.5 percent of their income toward premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. Ten percent of marketplace enrollees with incomes between 200 and 500 percent of FPL will spend more than 21 percent of their income on health care costs. Those in fair or poor health and those over age 45 are most likely to face high median financial burdens.…

This is just one more study that shows that far too many individuals who need health care still face excessive financial burdens in spite of being insured. Instead of merely trying to tweak our dysfunctional system, we should go ahead and replace it with one that works – a single payer national health program.