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Tax Refunds in Hand, Americans Go See the Doctor, Report Finds

As tax season approaches, some consumers are waiting for their refund checks to spend on a long-delayed purchase -- a visit to the doctor or dentist.

U.S. consumers boosted their out-of-pocket health spending by 60 percent in the week after they got a tax refund, according to new research from JPMorgan Chase & Co., based on data from Chase customer accounts.

Spending stayed high for about 2 1/2 months, with about two-thirds of the extra spending money going to in-person payments to doctors and dentists. Much of the rest was used to pay down past bills.

Source: JPMorgan Chase Institute

Health insurers and employers have raised copays and deductibles for consumers, making them bear a larger portion of the cost of care when they go see a health-care provider. As a result, patients sometimes lack the cash to get the care they may need, according to the report.

“Cash-flow dynamics are a significant driver of out-of-pocket spending for health care,” the study found. “Even when consumers knew with near-certainty the size and source of a major cash infusion, they still waited until the infusion arrived before spending.”

The researchers found that availability of cash had far less of an impact on health-spending decisions among those with credit cards, or who had higher bank-account balances.

Here’s how consumers spent on health care after getting their refunds, according to the report:

Source: JPMorgan Chase Institute
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