Survey Finds Large Number of People Skip Necessary Medical Care Because of Cost

About 40 percent of Americans report skipping a recommended medical test or treatment and 44 percent say they didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured in the last year because of cost, according to a new national poll from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute.

The February survey of more than 1,300 adults offers new insights into how Americans feel about the costs of healthcare and how they report those costs affect their medical decisions and personal finances. While $3.3 trillion was spent on healthcare in the U.S. in 2016 – 17.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product – the new national poll finds three-quarters of Americans do not think we get good value for what our country spends on healthcare.

In the survey (download issue brief or topline results), about 30 percent said that over the last year they had to choose between paying for medical bills or basic necessities like food, heating or housing. But people say they are not only facing tough choices; they are scared. More people fear the medical bills that come with a serious illness than fear the illness itself (40 percent vs. 33 percent). Those who reported skipping a recommended test or treatment were about two times more likely to fear getting sick (47 percent vs. 24 percent) and to fear the costs of care (60 percent vs. 27 percent).

The survey also revealed Americans are not only delaying but also going without recommended care such as tests, treatments and doctor visits. About one-in-three respondents report they did not fill a prescription or took less than the prescribed dose to save money. Dental care also suffered. Nearly half say they went without a routine cleaning or check up in the last year, and 39 percent say they did not go to the dentist when they needed treatment.

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