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Measuring the Financial Exposure from Medical Care Spending Among Families with Employer Sponsored Insurance


  • Abraham Jean M.

    (Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 420 Delaware Street SE MMC 729, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA)

  • Royalty Anne Beeson

    (Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN, USA)

  • DeLeire Thomas

    (Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA)


We develop an empirical method to assess the degree of financial exposure associated with medical care spending among non-elderly US families with employer-sponsored insurance. A key feature of this method is its simplicity – it only requires data on out-of-pocket (OOP) health care spending and total health care spending and does not require detailed knowledge of health insurance benefit design. We apply our method to assess whether families with a chronically ill member face more financial exposure given their level of total spending relative to families with no chronically ill members. We find that the insured chronically ill face more financial exposure than the insured non-chronically ill. Additional analyses suggest that the reason for this additional financial exposure is not that families with a chronically ill member are in different, less generous plans, on average. Rather, families with a chronically ill member have higher spending on certain types of medical services (e.g., pharmaceuticals) that face higher levels of coinsurance. Given recent work on value-based insurance design and coinsurance as an obstacle to medication adherence, our findings suggest that the current design of health plans could jeopardize both the health and the financial well-being of the chronically ill.

Suggested Citation

  • Abraham Jean M. & Royalty Anne Beeson & DeLeire Thomas, 2013. "Measuring the Financial Exposure from Medical Care Spending Among Families with Employer Sponsored Insurance," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 1-25, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:fhecpo:v:16:y:2013:i:1:p:25:n:2
    DOI: 10.1515/fhep-2012-0012

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gaynor Martin & Li Jian & Vogt William B, 2007. "Substitution, Spending Offsets, and Prescription Drug Benefit Design," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(2), pages 1-33, July.
    2. Leibowitz, Arleen & Manning, Willard G. & Newhouse, Joseph P., 1985. "The demand for prescription drugs as a function of cost-sharing," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1063-1069, January.
    3. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Gruber & Robin McKnight, 2010. "Patient Cost-Sharing and Hospitalization Offsets in the Elderly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 193-213, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joelle Abramowitz & Brett O'Hara & Darcy Steeg Morris, 2017. "Risking Life and Limb: Estimating a Measure of Medical Care Economic Risk and Considering its Implications," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 469-485, April.

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