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Out-of-pocket health costs rising for Canadians

By: Helen Branswell, The Canadian Press

 | Apr 16, 2014 - 11:22 AM |
TORONTO - A new report says out-of-pocket health expenses rose sharply from 1997 to 2009 with low income households taking the hardest hit.

The Statistics Canada report says low income households saw their health-care related costs rise by 63 per cent over that period, compared to an increase of between 36 and 48 per cent for higher earners.

In 2009, the lowest income households spent about $1,000 on health care, compared to almost $3,000 for top earners.

But the report says out-of-pocket health-care spending represented 5.7 per cent of after-tax income for the lowest income households, compared to 2.6 per cent for the families at the highest end.

The three biggest components of out-of-pocket health-care spending were dental services, prescription drugs and health-related insurance premiums.

The distribution of how the money was spent varied depending on where on the income spectrum households were.

For instance, in 2009 lower income households spent more on prescription drugs than did higher income households.

For higher income households, insurance was the top out-of-pocket health expense, followed by dental services.

The report says that lower income households were more likely to spend more than five per cent of after-tax income on health-care related costs than higher income families.

In 2009, nearly 40 per cent of households in the two lowest income brackets reported spending more than five per cent of after-tax income on health costs compared with 14 per cent of households at the top end of the income spectrum.

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