Nearly a third of Americans — triple the share since March — say they’ve skipped medical care for a health condition in the past three months because of concerns about cost, according to a new report. to study from Gallup and West Health.
High medical costs are even impacting high-income Americans, with 1 in 5 households earning more than $120,000 a year saying they’ve bypassed care too, research shows. That’s a nearly sevenfold increase for high-income families since March.
The rise in the number of Americans avoiding medical care due to financial problems comes as prescription drugs, with drug prices outpacing inflation.cases are breaking out across much of the country and after many people have had during the initial phase of the pandemic. Now that more of them are catching up on doctor visits, they are faced with often expensive costs. Some health expenditures have increased over the past year, such as
Skipping treatment can have disastrous results, and the survey found nearly 13 million Americans know of a friend or family member who died because they couldn’t afford treatment. And 20% of adults say they or someone in their household saw their health condition worsen after postponing care because of cost.
When six numbers are not enough
“Americans tend to think there’s a low-income group of people and they have worse health care than the rest of us, and the rest of us are fine” , said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health, a nonprofit focused on reducing health care costs. “What we’re seeing now in this survey is that this group of people who identify as struggling with health care costs is growing.”
He added, “It goes beyond those who might be considered middle or lower income compared to the national average, and goes all the way up to those earning over $120,000.”
About 23% of Americans say paying for health care is a major financial burden, with that figure rising to a third for people earning less than $48,000 a year. Personal expenses such as deductibles and insurance premiums have increased, eating into household budgets.
“We often overlook the side effect of cost, and that’s quite toxic — there’s a financial toxicity that exists in health care,” Lash said. “We know that when you skip treatment it can impact mortality.”
From 2009 to 2020, medical bills were the to study from the Journal of the American Medical Association., with a record $140 billion owed last year, according to a July report
“Broken” medical system
Angie Korol, who participated in the Gallup-West Health study, is among those suffering from health care financial problems. Researchers spoke to more than 6,000 people in September and October about their concerns and experiences with health care financing.
Korol, of Gresham, Oregon, said her family was covered by her husband’s health care, but they paid insurance premiums of about $2,200 a month for her and their child.
“It’s not great for our budget,” said Korol, 40, an accounting student. “We’re getting there, but some months scrape our teeth.”
Korol said she has chosen to delay medical attention in the past. Before the pandemic, her family participated in the state’s Medicaid program — and they worried that legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act would again allow health insurers to snub people with pre-existing conditions.
As a result, Korol delayed getting an autoimmune disease diagnosis for more than a year. Now that she has been diagnosed, she faces a two-month delay in seeing a rheumatologist due to high patient demand.
“It shouldn’t take two months to get into the person with rheumatic arthritis,” she said. “It makes me worried, because what if it takes longer next time?”
The medical system “is broken down,” Korol added.
High costs, low value
Americans are increasingly skeptical that they are getting what they pay for when it comes to medical care, the study finds. About 52% of adults said their most recent healthcare experience was not worth the cost, up from 43% in April. Overall, 9 in 10 Americans say people pay too much for the quality of health care they receive.
“If you ask consumers, people want to believe that we have the best care and therefore get the best value,” Lash said. “People are opening their eyes to the fragility of the medical system and its inability to solve all the problems for us.”
US healthcare system ‘outclasses’ in cost – Americans pay more for medical care than citizens of any other developed country — but “by just about every other measure, like life expectancy, infant mortality, etc., we’re at rock bottom,” Lash said.