Far too many Americans are making sacrifices because of the excessive costs of health care in the United States, a new study this week suggests. The findings estimate that nearly 100 million Americans have recently had to somehow evade the prospect of more expensive medical bills, either by cutting back on other essentials such as food, borrowing money, or avoiding their medical care outright.
Poll organization Gallup conducted the questionnaire in June 2022, in partnership with the nonprofit organization West Health. More than 3,000 American adults in all 50 states and Washington DC were surveyed about their recent health care spending, among other things. More specifically, they were asked whether they had taken one or more cost-saving measures in the past six months due to higher healthcare costs.
Overall, 38% of respondents said yes to at least one of these measures, which would be the equivalent of 98 million Americans. The most common measure people took was delaying medical care, including not paying for their prescription drugs (26%). But people also drove less (17%), cut utilities (10%), skipped meals (7%) or borrowed money to pay their bills (6%).
Americans across all income levels reported having their belts tightened, but the gap between the haves and have-nots was predictably wide: 62% of people with annual incomes less than $24,000 reported having to cut back on their medical bills, compared to 19% of those with incomes over $180,000. Many respondents were also not too optimistic about the future: 39% said they were ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘concerned’ that they would not be able to pay for care in the next six months.
Of course, the US health care system has been around for a long time more expensive and less performing than systems in other rich countries. But it’s possible that rising costs in general related to inflation have only recently added to the burden. The authors note that the poll was taken the same month inflation rose to 9.1% – a record never seen before over 40 years.
“People have been making compromises to pay for health care for years. Inflation has only made things worse as people are now also struggling with the high price of gas, food and electricity,” West Health president Timothy Lash said in a statement. pronunciation released on Thursday.
While some aspects of the larger inflation problem may not have readily available solutions, Lash notes that there is a huge bill on the table that could alleviate some of the long-standing problems with health care costs. Certain provisions currently under the Inflation Relief Act are intended to limit out-of-pocket expenditures for people on Medicare, and would also give the government more power to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry.
The bill as a whole has passed its biggest hurdle, having been approved in principle by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who have routinely blocked legislation backed by the party and the White House in recent years. But the pharmaceutical industry is still lobby hard against these specific provisions, so it is not yet a guarantee that they will be included. It is likely that the bill will be voted for by the Senate over the weekend, so time will tell soon enough.