Researchers found around 11 million Americans experienced “catastrophic medical expenses” in 2017, the last year the study covered — and privately insured people represented more than half of those. “Catastrophic expenditures” is a term coined by the World Health Organization that refers to health care spending of more than 40% of a person’s income after food and housing costs.
During the study period from 2010 to 2017, 6 million people between 20 and 64 years old with private insurance suffered such financial burdens, and their share of the total who reported them went up from 46% to nearly 54%. The study found an overall decrease in catastrophic expenses by 2017 — in particular people on Medicaid saw a decrease — but not among the privately insured. Despite gains in health insurance, many Americans may still be vulnerable to unmanageable bills, including high premiums and high out-of-pocket costs.