Last month, I wrote about a Commonwealth Fund survey that compared health care in several developed countries. The study was an eye-opening look at how health care systems around the world are perceived by the people who actually use the systems, rather than by outside analysts and observers.
The most recent edition of the Health Wonk Review features an article by Aaron Carroll of the Incidental Economist, with a particularly interesting comparison from the study. Aaron notes that people with above-average incomes in the US were more likely to report a cost-based barrier to obtaining health care than people with below-average incomes in seven of the eleven countries in the survey. We have always known that low-income Americans face significant obstacles when it comes to health care. But it appears that cost is a health care obstacle here even for people with incomes above the national median.
Of course, this can probably be explained when we look at how much more expensive health care is in the US, compared with the rest of the world. People in the US pay a significantly larger chunk of their income for health care (either through health insurance premiums, or directly to providers) than people in other countries. So it makes sense that the financial burden families face when it comes to paying for health care is felt more acutely here than it is in other developed countries, even in middle- and upper-class households. Until we can get our health care costs in line with what other developed countries spend, health insurance premiums will continue to be a financial stretch for many families, and cost will continue to be a barrier standing in the way of health care access for a large number of Americans.