New Book Shows Disproportionate Financial Burden of Health Care Spending on Households, Private Businesses, State & Local Governments

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Health care spending has increased dramatically in the past 50 years and now accounts for nearly one out of every five dollars spent in the United States.  A new chartbook, The Nation’s Health Care Bill: Who Bears the Burden, shows the financial burden of rising health care costs borne by households, private businesses, and state and local governments.

“The financial burden of rising health care costs falls on all citizens, but presents a disproportionate burden on those least able to pay,” said Jerry Cromwell, Ph.D., senior fellow in health economics at RTI International and the chartbook’s lead author. “The burden falls unequally on uninsured and sick people, small businesses, and low-wage workers.”

Written for concerned citizens and policy makers, the chartbook quantifies the opportunity costs of rising health spending in excess of gross domestic product and why the health care system must become more efficient and equitable.

“Businesses are shifting more of their health premium costs to workers, households are declaring bankruptcy more often due to medical bills, and federal and state governments are skimping on investments in the nation’s infrastructure and schools to pay for more costly health services,” Cromwell said. “The impacts of these missed investments are illustrated in many different ways in the book.”

The book, published by RTI Press, includes 39 charts with accompanying tables and texts. The book also establishes a baseline to monitor changes in the financial burden of health care that result from the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by Congress in 2010. With the chart book as a reference point, people can take future steps to enhance the cost-effectiveness of the U.S. health care system.

The book is in five parts. The first four parts reveal the broader financial burden of rising health care costs overall and for businesses, households, and governments.  The fifth part shows what unconstrained health care spending has bought in terms of longer lives, but even these benefits have not been equally shared in the general population while overall quality of care remains inferior to other industrialized countries.

The book is coauthored by Deborah Healy, Ph.D., senior economist at Compass Lexecon; Elizabeth Seeley, Ph.D., research consultant and lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health; and RTI research associates Diana Trebino and Genevieve Cromwell.

The Nation’s Health Care Bill: Who Bears the Burden is available on the RTI Press website.