Health Insurance

1 in 2 Americans Experienced Issues Obtaining Medication Due to Delays, Shortages Amid Pandemic

1 in 2 Americans Experienced Issues Obtaining Medication Due to Delays, Shortages Amid Pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic upends the health care system, 50% of consumers said they’ve experienced delays in obtaining necessary medication, while 60% have put off preventive care.
Prescription pile.
Prescription pile. Source: Getty Images

The United States health care system has been pressed to its limits this year due to the presence of COVID-19. With it, Americans have experienced economic hardships that haven't been seen in over a decade. However, these issues have now bled into the health of the population and people's ability to receive necessary health care. ValuePenguin decided to attempt to understand what these medical hardships looked like and how Americans have coped over the past six months.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused consumers to experience medication delays

Of those Americans who have experienced medication delays during this year, the primary reason was having issues with mail-order prescriptions. Mailing prescriptions has become a popular form of delivery for many patients in the United States. Almost all major pharmacies now offer a mailing option, but this brings up concerns of delivery reliability.

However, of more concern is that 31% of individuals responded that their prescriptions were out of stock, while 9% said they couldn't afford to pay for their prescriptions. Finally, only 5% of respondents said they were worried about going to the pharmacy, possibly due to worries of contracting the coronavirus.

At any point in the last 6 months have you had to go one or more days without medication you needed?

When broken out by gender, interestingly, men were more likely to experience a delay in medication when compared to women (62% versus 38%). Of all the reasons for delays, delayed mail-in prescriptions had the largest gender difference, where males (33%) tripled the rate of females (11%).

Surprisingly, older individuals responded overwhelmingly that they hadn't experienced any delays in receiving their medications — 81% of baby boomers and 93% of silent generation respondents. On the other hand, 74% of Gen Xers and 62% of millennials experienced medication delays. Additionally, 13% of millennials said they couldn’t access a medication they needed because of cost concerns.

60% of Americans put off preventive care amid pandemic

More than a quarter of respondents said they pushed off an annual exam from their primary care physician, followed closely by skipping a dental cleaning (24%). Concerningly, 9% of individuals skipped a major medical procedure. Of those who decided to postpone a procedure, more than a third (38%) stated that they didn't want to risk getting the coronavirus by being in a health care setting.

Also, 6% of our respondents stated that they skipped a mental health appointment with a psychologist during the past six months. Loneliness has been an issue among Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly half of Americans stating that they have experienced the emotion amid social distancing requirements.

While the main reason individuals postponed care was COVID-19 worries, 29% of individuals didn't want to take up the time of medical professionals busy treating COVID-19 patients.

Why did you skip/put off the appointment?

Furthermore, men were more likely to feel this way when compared to women — 39% and 18%, respectively. In fact, this was the main reason men skipped appointments, while women’s main reason was to avoid getting the coronavirus by being in a health care setting.

On a similar note, around one in 10 respondents felt that they should skip a medical appointment because they were worried that they had come into contact with someone who had the virus. Of the individuals who responded this way, 17% were part of Generation Z.

Nearly one in 10 respondents was worried about their ability to access health care

While most consumers (57%) were very confident they could access a doctor or medicine within a reasonable timeframe if needed, nearly one in 10 didn't think they could do so — and that jumps to one in five Gen Zers. On the other hand, Gen Xers were extremely confident in their ability to eventually get the care they needed — 97% were at least "somewhat confident."

Why don’t you think you would be able to see a doctor and/or get access to medicine?

Among individuals who were worried about their ability to access basic medicine, long wait times due to the coronavirus pandemic was the most popular response (31%). Following other trends in our survey, respondents were also worried about costs of health care and insurance, with 29% saying they didn't think they could afford it.

Of those worried about their access to health care, nearly a quarter of individuals reported that they didn't have a primary care physician (PCP). However, when broken out by gender, females overwhelmingly outpaced males, with 30% saying they did not have a PCP compared to only 9% of males. Men (46%) were mainly concerned about long wait times reducing their ability to receive care.

COVID-19 health insurance tips

A theme throughout our survey was individuals skipping checkups and lacking a primary care physician. During a pandemic, it can be easy to break habits and cheat on focusing on your health. However, these mistakes can compound into larger problems. Individuals should recognize the importance of continuing preventive care measures such as annual checkups and dental cleanings.

Costs were another concern of our respondents. Many are feeling the economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing issues with receiving and affording necessary medications. We suggest reviewing your health insurance policy to understand where you can save money. Furthermore, instead of relying on delivery services for necessary medicine, call ahead to pharmacies near you to confirm they have what you need.


ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,028 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Sept. 11-14, 2020.

Generations are defined as the following ages in September 2020: Gen Z are 18-23 Millennials are 24-39 Gen X are 40-54 Baby boomers are 55-74 Silent generation are 75 and older