Younger Adults Engage in Risky Behaviors to Avoid Health Care Costs

Many skip appointments, put off care because of the expense
An empty doctor's office

While many adults believe being proactive about their health can save them money on treatment in the long run, a larger number of them are putting their health in jeopardy because of finances, new research suggests.

The Nationwide Retirement Institute, a division of financial services company Nationwide, polled 1,000 consumers between the ages of 25 and 45 on how health costs impact them. The survey, conducted by research and analytics firm Edelman Intelligence, was part of a larger study on health care that also polled older Americans.

Most of the respondents — 69% — said they believe making self-care and mental health a priority would help them save on future health care expenses. Yet, most aren’t practicing what they preach.

Nearly 3 in 4 respondents have taken actions that might be perceived as risky in order to save money on medical expenses, the Edelman survey found. Specifically:

  • 33% have put off seeking medical treatment, hoping the condition would clear up on its own.
  • 27% have considered not seeking care because they didn’t want to pay a high deductible.
  • 22% have skipped an appointment because they wanted to avoid the medical bill.
  • 22% have taken a smaller dosage of medication than recommended to extend the length of the prescription.
  • 21% have stopped taking a prescription early because of cost.
  • 20% did not follow doctor’s orders because of the cost.

They also reported experiencing a number of undesirable consequences from high health care costs, with 43% saying they’ve stopped saving for discretionary purchases, 38% reporting they’ve gone into debt and 31% saying they haven’t contributed as much to a 401(k) retirement account as they would have liked because of health care expenses. Additionally, 13% said health care expenses have caused them to file for bankruptcy.

The survey also found that many respondents put preventative care on the back burner. For example, only 50% have had a physical, and just 45% have had a preventive screening such as a blood pressure or cholesterol check in the past year.

When asked why they don’t get preventative care services more often, 31% said they didn’t have a good reason, 22% said cost was a prohibitor and 18% said time constraints kept them from getting the care they need.

Health care costs pose a serious challenge for many consumers. In fact, even those who get insurance as a benefit through their jobs often struggle with the expense.

If you don’t get health insurance through your job, take the time to compare rates for individual insurance plans. And if you do get insurance through your company, conduct some research on the most affordable plans before open enrollment rolls around so you can select the best coverage for the next year.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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