Updated May 30, 2019 11:50:56The number of Americans who receive free or discounted medical care through Medicare has grown steadily over the past decade, as the nation’s health care costs have risen, according to the latest government statistics.
While the federal government spends about $4.8 trillion on healthcare per year, the number of Medicare beneficiaries rose by nearly 5 million people in 2016 to 7.1 million, according the Congressional Budget Office.
More than 6.6 million people received free or reduced prices from Medicare in 2016, while nearly 1.1 billion people received reduced prices, according a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
More than 4.7 million Americans received Medicaid assistance in 2016 as well.
In contrast, in the past three years, the average annual growth rate for Medicare beneficiaries has slowed from 2.7% to 1.9%.
“The number one issue for many people is they are unable to pay their bills,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, chief economist at the Kaiser Family Foundations.
“We’re seeing that with the growth of Medicaid, the cost is getting much, much higher, and the percentage of people that are getting it is much, many more.”
The cost of health care has skyrocketed in recent years, according in part to rising health care premiums and deductibles.
The average Medicare payment per person for the second quarter of 2020 was $13,851, the highest since the program began in the 1990s, according Medicare’s actuaries.
That is nearly double the national average of $6,716.
Wiedefelde said a significant number of people are also being penalized with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
In the latest federal data, about 7.5 million people paid out of pocket for medical care in 2016.
The average out- of-pocket cost for a single insured person was $4,076 in 2016 for a family of four.
In 2018, more than 3.5% of Americans said they were not able to pay for their medical care, according Kaiser Family’s analysis.
That’s nearly double than the national rate of 3.2%.
While the percentage who are covered by Medicare has dropped, the percentage covered by Medicaid has risen from 16.3% to 25.7%.
In 2016, about 21.9 million people were covered by both Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicare’s share of the population grew from 14.3 million in 2020 to 19.4 million in 2024, Kaiser Family found.
By 2024, the share of Americans covered by either Medicare or Medicaid grew from 10.6% to 16.7%, Kaiser Family said.