AMERICANS PAYING LOWER SHARE OF HEALTHCARE TAB

3You read it right. According to the most recent full-year data (2011) from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the percentage of consumer spending on healthcare fell to its lowest level in decades. HHS based its conclusion on a nationwide analysis of premiums for individual and group Health plans, out-of-pocket payments and co-pay deductibles, and Medicare payroll taxes.

What's more, despite the highly publicized rapid growth of high-deductible health plans and increasing contributions by workers to employer-run programs during recent years, the total amount coming out of patients' pockets keeps shrinking.

Here's why: According to HHS statistician Micah Hartman, families are facing pressures from the cost of healthcare because their medical expenses have grown faster than their incomes during recent years - not because they're paying a larger percentage of the total. Consumers have seen their contributions to healthcare costs continue to decline during the past 25 years; although household expenses have risen throughout this period, medical spending from other sources has increased far more rapidly. This holds particularly true for federal and state programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

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