December 14, 2021 — About a third of Americans say they skipped the medical care they needed in the past 3 months due to concerns about the cost, according to a new survey from Gallup and West Health.
This is the highest number reported since the start of the pandemic and a tripling from March to October.
Even 20% of the nation’s highest-income households – earning more than $120,000 a year – said they also skipped care. That’s a roughly sevenfold increase for high-income families since March.
“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. “, Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health, a nonprofit focused on reducing health care costs, told CBS News.
“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 said.
As part of the 2021 Health Care in America Report, researchers surveyed more than 6,000 people in September and October about their concerns and experiences with health care and treatment. About half of respondents said health care in America has deteriorated due to the pandemic, and more than half said they are more concerned about medical costs than before.
Additionally, many Americans are postponing routine medical visits at the start of the pandemic, and now that they are starting to schedule appointments again, they face significant costs, the survey found. Some expenses have increased over the past year, including prescription drugs.
Rising costs have led many people to abandon care or treatment, which can have major consequences. About 1 in 20 adults said they know of a friend or family member who died in the past year because they couldn’t afford treatment, the survey found. And around 20% of adults said they or someone in their household had a health condition that got worse after treatment was postponed due to price.
About 23% of survey respondents said paying for health care is a major financial burden, rising to a third of respondents who earn less than $48,000 a year. Out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and insurance premiums have increased, eating up more of people’s budgets.
“We often overlook the side effect of costs, 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.”