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A Record Number of Americans Say They Can Indeed Afford Health Care

Patient Karen Ballog, 57–years–old is moved from her room in the cardiac care unit through the hallPatient Karen Ballog, 57–years–old is moved from her room in the cardiac care unit through the hall
Nurses are a critical part of U.S. health care. And there aren't enough of them.Photograph by Al Seib LA Times via Getty Images

The annual cost of health care for a typical family of four with employer-sponsored insurance has skyrocketed over the past few years to over $25,000 in 2016—yet more Americans say they can afford the bills.

On Monday, polling group Gallup reported that 15.5% of Americans say they couldn’t afford the health care or medicine they needed over the past year. That’s the lowest percentage reported since Gallup began tracking Americans’ health care insecurity at the head of the financial recession in 2008. The percentage of Americans who had trouble finding funds to pay for their household’s heath-related bills hovered at an average of 18.7% until 2013, and it seems to have been falling steadily since.

The increased in insured citizens has certainly helped boost those figures, yet more and more uninsured Americans also say they can afford the necessary health care, which suggests that an improving economy, falling unemployment rate, and lower oil prices may also be bulking up consumers’ spending power.

But the biggest reason for the change, according to Gallup, is Obamacare.

“The expansion of health insurance coverage to millions more Americans under the Affordable Care Act is likely a major factor in the decline of health care insecurity, demonstrating a concrete benefit of the law,” the authors of the report, Jeffrey M. Jones and Nader Nekvasil wrote. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act could easily halt or reverse the positive trends in health care access, which would certainly affect Americans’ ability to pay for health care in the future.”

 

Meanwhile, the cost of health care itself has skyrocketed, according to data from the Milliman Medical Index.

The cost of care for a family of four with employer-sponsored insurance has more than tripled since 2001, when a household paid about $8,414, to $25,826, according to the Milliman Medical Index. The employee on the other hand pays 43% of that cost, about $11,033—a figure which has also risen in the 15 years.

The figures come as regulators consider blocking a merger between two health insurance giants, Anthem and Cigna, the Wall Street Journal reported. One concern is that the merger could impact state health exchanges—part of the Affordable Care Act—as Anthem is a major player in those markets in 14 states.

Gallup conducted the survey in the first three months of the year among 44,558 adults.