Elderly Americans personally spent $2,400 last year - 18 percent of their income - on health care, the chairman of the House Aging Committee said Thursday, criticizing proposals to cut the Medicare budget.

Rep. Edward Roybal, D-Calif., released the report "Health Care Costs For America's Elderly, 1977-88" as his Select Committee on Aging prepared to open a hearing at which budget director Richard Darman was expected to explain the Bush administration's proposals to cut $5 billion from the 1990 Medicare budget."Continuing the tradition of his predecessor, President Bush's insensitivity to the health cost pressures on America's elderly is reflected in his proposal requiring Medicare beneficiary Part B premiums to cover 25 percent of program costs - a proposal expected to cost beneficiaries an extra $13 per month by 1994," Roybal charged.

Roybal said it is the first time his committee has called upon the head of the Office of Management and Budget to testify on administration health policy. He said it appeared the budget office, not the Department of Health and Human Services, "is setting overall health policy, especially for Medicare and Medicaid."

"OMB's heavy hand in directing administration health policy is extremely troubling for those of us trying to protect vulnerable Americans of all ages," Roybal said.

The committee study, Roybal said, is based on a study by the department's Health Care Financing Administration and documents "that America's elderly are getting into deeper and deeper trouble even without further budget cutbacks."

If past trends hold, the report speculated that elderly health care costs may reach 20 percent of the elderly's income in just a few years.




*The elderly's 1988 total health care costs totaled $175 billion - an average of $5,749 per person.

*In personal expenditures for health care, the elderly spent an average of $2,394 per person - nearly 2.5 times the costs in 1980. Out-of-pocket health care costs averaged $712 in 1977 and $966 in 1980. The total out-of-pocket costs were $73 billion.

*As a percentage of elderly income, the out-of-pocket costs grew from less than 12 percent of income in 1977 and 1980 to more than 18 percent in 1988.

*From 1980 to 1988, the elderly's health care payments rose at a rate that was 1.5 times faster than the rate of increase in their income. Specifically, the elderly's share of health care costs climbed at a rate of 12 percent, while their income increased at an annual rate of only 7 percent.