More Americans Skipping Medical Care Because of Cost, Survey Says

Carolyn Crist
December 14, 2021

About a third of Americans say they've skipped medical care that they needed in the past 3 months due to concerns about the cost, according to a new survey from Gallup and West Health.

That's the highest reported number since the pandemic began and a tripling from March to October.

Even 20% of the country's highest-income households — earning more than $120,000 per year — said they've also skipped care. That's an increase of about seven times for higher-income families since March.

"Americans tend to think there is a group of lower-income people, and they have worse health care than the rest of us, and the rest of us, we're OK," Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, a nonprofit focused on lowering health care costs, told CBS News.

"What we are seeing now in this survey is this group of people who are identifying themselves as struggling with health care costs is growing," he said.

As part of the 2021 Healthcare in America Report, researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in September and October about their concerns and experiences with affording health care and treatment. About half of respondents said health care in America has gotten worse due to the pandemic, and more than half said they're more worried about medical costs than before.

What's more, many Americans put off routine doctor visits at the beginning of the pandemic, and now that they're beginning to schedule appointments again, they're facing major costs, the survey found. Some expenses have increased in the past year, including prescription medications.

The rising costs have led many people to skip care or treatment, which can have major consequences. About 1 in 20 adults said they know a friend or family member who died during the past year because they couldn't afford medical care, the survey found. And about 20% of adults said they or someone in their household had a health issue that grew worse after postponing care due to price.

About 23% of survey respondents said that paying for health care represents a major financial burden, which increases to a third of respondents who earn less than $48,000 per year. Out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and insurance premiums have increased, which have taken up larger portions of people's budgets.

"We often overlook the side effect of costs, and it's quite toxic — there is a financial toxicity that exists in health care," Lash said. "We know when you skip treatment, that can have an impact on mortality."

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Reviewed on 12/15/2021
References
SOURCE: Medscape, December 14, 2021. Gallup: "West Health-Gallup 2021 Healthcare in America Report." CBS News: "Surge in Americans skipping medical care due to cost, Gallup says."

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