The burden of healthcare on households’ budgets


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In 2017, more than half of the people (55%) in the European Union (EU) reported that the amount their household had to pay for medical care did not represent a financial burden. On the other hand, 34% stated that health care costs were somewhat of a financial burden, while 11% perceived such costs as a heavy financial burden on the household budget.

The burden of paying for medical care

Medical care refers to individual health care services such as examinations or treatments. It includes health care for curative, rehabilitative or long-term purposes, mental medical health care as well as preventive medical services. Dental care and medicines are not included.

At EU level, the perceived financial burden of medical care was greatest for those living in two-person households that included at least one person aged 65 years or more (13% of people in these households reported medical care to be a high financial burden). Those living in single-person households (12%), households without dependent children (12%), two-adult households and in households with dependent children (both 10%) also reported that health care was a high burden on their budget.

Cyprus had the largest share of persons reporting that health care costs posed a high financial burden (39%), followed by Bulgaria (32%), Italy (29%) and Latvia (28%). In contrast, the share of persons declaring that paying for medical care caused no financial burden was largest in Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden (all 86%), Estonia (85%) and France (84%).

Graph: financial burden of medical care

Dental care costs

Nearly half of the population (48%) in the EU reported no financial burden relating to costs for dental examinations or treatment. Dental costs were perceived to be somewhat of a burden to the household budget by 35%, while 17% found that costs relating to dental care incurred a high financial burden.

In Cyprus, 47% reported that dental care represented a high financial burden to the household budget, followed by Italy (39%), Latvia (36%) and Spain (34%). In contrast, 79% of people in Denmark and 77% in the Netherlands and Sweden stated that these costs caused no financial burden on the household.

Graph: Financial burden of dental care

The burden of paying for medicines

Just under half (49%) of the people declared that paying for medicines brought no financial burden to the household. However, 39% reported that these costs represented some financial burden and 13% found paying for medicine a heavy financial burden on the household.

The countries with the highest share of people reporting that the cost of medicine was a heavy financial burden were Poland (40%), followed by Cyprus (34%), Bulgaria (33%) and Latvia (30%). In contrast, the share of those declaring that buying medicine had no repercussions on the household budget was largest in France (90%), Denmark (84%) and Sweden (78%).

Graph: financial burden of buying medicine


The source dataset is accessible here.

Financial burden refers to out-of-pocket expenditure, that is to say, expenses that the household pays directly to the health care provider. To gather the information on the households’ perceived financial burden relating to health care, one member of the household was interviewed.

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