3 in 10 Americans delay healthcare due to high costs

Roughly 3 in 10 Americans don’t seek medical care because they can’t afford it, according to a recent Gallup poll.

More than half of those who put off care, or about 19 percent of all U.S. adults, delayed care that involved a very serious or somewhat serious condition or illness, according to the poll.

The findings come as healthcare costs have continued to rise in the United States much more rapidly than other countries over the last decade. Fortunately, recent data revealed a somewhat slower growth rate in healthcare spending in 2017.

The Gallup results also revealed that Americans in all household income groups are affected by rising healthcare costs.

Gallup’s findings have been largely consistent since 2005, but are much lower than another recent survey from Earnin that found more than half of Americans delayed some type of care over the last 12 months due to high costs. By comparison, no more than 16 percent of people reported delaying treatment for a serious condition in 1991, as well as from 2001 to 2004.

The bulk of the increase in care delays since 2005 is among those with private insurance, according to Gallup, rising from an average of 21 percent between 2001 and 2004 to around 30 percent since 2005.

“After paying steep health insurance premiums, or in some cases funding their own medical spending accounts, Americans with health insurance are often still responsible for large deductibles and co-pays that inhibit them from visiting a doctor for every medical symptom,” the poll reads. “That may be an appropriate check on public demand for healthcare services, helping keep U.S. costs down, but it also prevents some Americans from seeking treatment for more serious medical conditions.”

Over the same time period, delays in seeking care for those on government insurance programs increased from 18 percent to 22 percent.

Overall, the stability of the rate of those putting off care due to high costs is somewhat positive––because it has not risen over the last decade––but still represents high risks to those with serious illnesses and conditions. 

"This also means that the reduced percentage of uninsured Americans since passage of the Affordable Care Act, as well as provisions in the ACA law meant to contain costs, have not been enough to drive down the overall rate of unmet care," the poll concludes.