Medical payments in perspective

The news: In May, President Barack Obama delivered a speech on reducing the high cost of healthcare, saying that “the stars are aligned” for reform. Behind the news: African Americans are least likely to pay “out of pocket” for their medical expenses, though only a third of their population is covered by private insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency’s nationwide survey found that 12.4 percent of medical payments by black respondents were made out of pocket in 2006, the latest year for which data are available. By comparison, Asian respondents made 20.4 percent of their payments out of pocket–”the highest among all racial and ethnic groups. Meanwhile, private insurance covered 33.9 percent of expenses for African Americans–”second lowest behind Latinos, for whom it covered 30.7 percent of expenses.