A Record 25% of U.S. Residents Put Off Treatment for a Serious Medical Condition Due to Cost, Up from 19% in 2018

“More Americans Delaying Medical Treatment Due to Cost

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • A third of U.S. adults say their family couldn’t afford care in past year
  • One in four say care was deferred for a serious medical condition
  • Lower-income adults and Democrats most likely to report delayed care

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup’s trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.

Line graph, 2001-2019. U.S. adults saying family put off medical care due to costs in past year for serious or any condition.

Gallup first asked this question in 1991, at which time 22% reported that they or a family member delayed care for any kind of condition, including 11% for a serious condition. The figures were similar in the next update in 2001, and Gallup has since asked this question annually as part of its Health and Healthcare poll. This year’s survey was conducted Nov. 1-14.

Americans’ reports of family members delaying any sort of medical treatment for cost reasons were lower in the early to mid-2000s when closer to a quarter reported the problem. Since 2006, the rate has averaged 30%.

The pattern is similar for the subset of Americans postponing medical treatment for a serious condition. The rate rose from 12% in 2001 to an average of 19% since 2006. However, the current 25% is the highest yet, exceeding the prior high-point of 22% recorded in 2014.

Income Gap Widens for Cost-Related Delays for Serious Conditions

Reports of delaying treatment for a serious condition jumped 13 percentage points in the past year to 36% among adults in households earning less than $40,000 per year while it was essentially flat (up a non statistically significant three points) among those in middle-income and higher-income households.

As a result of the spike in lower-income households this year, the gap between the top and bottom income groups for failure to seek treatment for a serious medical condition widened to 23 percentage points in 2019. The income gap had averaged 17 points in the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency, but narrowed to an average 11 points in the first few years after implementation of the ACA, from 2015 to 2018.

Line graph, 2003-2019. U.S. adults saying family put off medical care for serious condition due to costs, by household income.

Delayed Care Up Most Among Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

Reports of delaying care for a serious condition due to costs are also up 13 points compared with last year among Americans who report they or another household member has a “pre-existing condition.”

At the same time, there has been virtually no change in the percentage of adults without pre-existing conditions in the household who delayed care for a serious health issue in the past year, currently 12% versus 11% in 2018.

Changes in health insurance coverage don’t appear to be the cause of the increase in delayed care as the percentage uninsured is 11% in the poll, within the 9% to 11% range seen each year since 2015. Also, the percentage delaying care has increased a similar proportion among those covered by private health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid as well as among the uninsured…”

Source: https://news.gallup.com/poll/269138/americans-delaying-medical-treatment-due-cost.aspx
More Americans Delaying Medical Treatment Due to Cost, Lydia Saad, Gallup, December 9, 2019

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