clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why your health bills are getting higher, in one chart

(Shutterstock)

Health-care costs have grown at exceptionally slow rates for the past five years. But for lots of Americans, the growth hasn't felt slow. In polls, most will say their medical bills get more and more difficult to afford.

What gives? This fantastic new chart, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, helps explain the discrepancy.

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

What you see here are, to some extent, premiums growing faster than workers' earnings. But the real runaway cost is deductibles: they've grown nearly seven times faster than workers' earnings just since 2010.

And rising deductibles are almost certainly part of the explanation of why health care costs are growing slower. When consumers have to pay a larger share of their bill — or pay all of it, before they hit their deductible — then they tend to use less medical care. Patients tend to be more hesitant to seek care when they know they'll be stuck with the bill at the end.

At the same time, rising deductibles are also the reason why the public still feels like health-care costs are skyrocketing. Because deductibles are one major way Americans pay for health care, and those really are skyrocketing! It makes sense that Americans feel like medical costs are going up quickly — they're bearing the brunt of any price increases at all.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.