Health Insurance

1 in 4 Americans Skipped Medical Treatments Due to High Costs

1 in 4 Americans Skipped Medical Treatments Due to High Costs

While most say health care is too expensive, Republicans have rosier view than Democrats
Medical costs

If the rising cost of health care has you losing sleep, you’re not alone. Nearly half of all Americans fear a health crisis could lead to financial ruin, a new survey suggests, and some are failing to seek medical treatment as a result.


Non-profit health care advocacy firm West Health and analytics firm Gallup polled more than 3.500 adults in the U.S. to find out how health care prices impacted their personal finances.

Massive debt because of medical bills

They found that many Americans are racking up massive debts because of medical bills. In the past year, nearly 3 million people borrowed $10,000 or more to cover health care expenses, for a collective total of approximately $88 billion, the survey found.

And among the respondents, 45% said they fear facing bankruptcy if a major health challenge were to strike in the future. Given those worries, it’s not surprising that some people are forgoing care out of financial concerns. Specifically, the survey found that:

  • 25% have skipped medical treatments because they believe the treatments cost too much.
  • 15 million Americans have put off buying prescription drugs in the past year for financial reasons.

Most dissatisfied with the health care system

Overall, only 39% of respondents reported being satisfied with the U.S. health care system in general.

In contrast, a larger 48% said the quality of the country's health care is among the best in the world. The view here, however, seems to be strongly influenced by politics: 67% of self-identified Republicans believed the U.S. system was superior to others, but only 38% of Democrats felt that way.

However, partisans of both parties appeared to agree that health care costs are too high, with 76% of all respondents saying they pay too much for medical expenses, considering the quality of services that they receive.

Interestingly, those questioned were far more positive about their own health care experiences than they were about the system overall. A clear majority of 64% said they were either "completely" or "mostly" satisfied with their own experiences as far as getting the health care services that they needed.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 77% of respondents worry that rising health care costs will cause significant damage to the economy.
  • 76% believe health care costs "will increase even further in the next two years."
  • When asked to choose between a five-year freeze in health care costs and a 10% increase in household income, most (61%) said they would prefer the freeze in health care costs

While some aspects of health care costs are totally out of consumers' hands, there are steps you can take to possibly lower the impact.

For example, the study found that only about a third of those questioned said their doctors talk with them about what procedures and treatment plans will cost before a course of action is decided upon. If your doctor doesn’t bring up the affordability of treatment, don't be afraid to ask questions — there's a chance that they could be able to prescribe an alternative that doesn't cost as much.

Also make sure that your insurance meets your needs, especially in terms of keeping you covered in the event of a major medical issue. Check out our collection of guides for finding a good medical insurance policy, including state-specific guides and help with Affordable Care Act options.

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