(The hill) – Nearly a third of Americans have skipped needed medical care in the past three months because they couldn’t afford it, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The West Health Policy Center and Gallup survey found that 30% of participants said they chose not to receive health care because of cost – a percentage that has tripled from nine months ago, reaching its peak during the pandemic.
A fifth of respondents said they or a household member saw their health condition worsen after delaying care due to cost.
Twenty percent of people from households earning more than $120,000 also said they had postponed health care for financial reasons — an increase from 3% in March.
Tim Lash, president of the West Health Policy Center, told The Hill that data showing those earning “significantly more” than the struggling median income “tells you we have a real problem.”
“It tells me that we’re at a breaking point and it’s not just…those who are desperate are not just low-income people, but even those who are more affluent,” he said. . “And we’re going to have to find a way out of this.”
Nearly a third of respondents said they would not have access to affordable care if they needed it today, compared to a spring survey in which 18% said the same. Additionally, 42% said they feared they would not be able to afford needed medical care in the next year.
“Decades of failed action and the current weakening of bold cost-cutting measures left Americans at the end of the year seeing the future as bleak as the past,” a statement accompanying the poll read.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened nearly half of Americans’ views of the health care system, with 15% saying they are having more trouble paying for care. Regardless of their political affiliation, two-thirds of Americans do not expect policies to result in lower costs.
The survey shows the pandemic has “aggravated” equity concerns, Lash said. One of 20 respondents said they knew a friend or relative who had died in the past year after not receiving needed care due to cost, with black Americans twice as likely as white Americans to say that they knew someone for whom that was true.
“It shows you how fragile our health care system is and how fragile families can be when trying to access it,” Lash said.
The West Health-Gallup poll polled 6,663 American adults from all 50 states and DC between September 27-30 and October 18-21. The margin of error was 1.5 percentage points.