To Pay for Healthcare 98M Americans Skipped Treatments, Cut Back on Food, Gas, Utilities

Author: West Health Institute
Published: 2022/08/04 - Updated: 2022/08/05
Contents: Summary - Definition - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Higher healthcare prices drove 38% of Americans to delay or skip treatment, cut back on driving, utilities, and food, or borrow money to pay medical bills in the last six months. Irrespective of race, gender, income, or political identity, Americans hold little confidence in their elected representatives to Congress or their state government to slow rising costs. Aside from the tradeoffs Americans are making to afford healthcare in the current inflationary environment, one in four (26%) say they avoided medical care or purchasing prescription drugs altogether because of higher prices and were either unable or unwilling to divert funds from somewhere else to pay for it.

Introduction

Higher healthcare prices drove 38% of American adults - representing an estimated 98 million people - to either delay or skip treatment, cut back on driving, utilities, and food, or borrow money to pay medical bills in the last six months, according to a new survey conducted by West Health and Gallup. The survey was conducted in June 2022; the same month, inflation reached 9.1%, a new 40-year high.

Main Digest

The percentage of people making these tradeoffs was higher in lower-income households, but higher earners were not immune. While more than half of households earning less than $48,000 a year made spending cuts, nearly 20% of households earning more than $180,000 a year were forced to cut back too. Women under 50 also cut back on medical care and medicine at higher rates than their male counterparts (36% to 27%, respectively) and much higher than men (22%).

Continued below image.
Chart details the figures regarding the cutting back on household spending due to rising healthcare prices by annual household income.
Chart details the figures regarding the cutting back on household spending due to rising healthcare prices by annual household income.
Continued...

"People have been making tradeoffs to pay for healthcare for years. Inflation has only made things worse as people are also now struggling with the high price of gas, food, and electricity," said Timothy A. Lash, President, West Health. "However, unlike those expenses, Congress now has the power to reduce healthcare prices, particularly prescription drugs. Legislation is on the table."

Healthcare inflation, which stood at 4.5% in June 2022, was half the overall inflation rate, which spiked to 9.1% in June, primarily because of rising gas, food, and rent prices.

Most Americans are not even thinking about how inflation may increase healthcare prices, given the spikes in gas and food. When asked, "For which one of the following expenses do you expect costs to rise the most in the next six months?", 43% of respondents cited gas, followed by food (34%). Healthcare was mentioned by only 3% of respondents.

Continued below image.
The table outlines the details regarding cutting back on household spending due to rising healthcare prices.
The table outlines the details regarding cutting back on household spending due to rising healthcare prices.
Continued...

Aside from the tradeoffs that Americans are making to afford healthcare in the current inflationary environment, one in four (26%) say they avoided medical care or purchasing prescription drugs altogether because of higher prices and were either unable or unwilling to divert funds from somewhere else to pay for it.

The future does not look bright for these Americans regarding relief at the pharmacy counter. Overall, 39% report being "extremely concerned" or "concerned" about being unable to pay for care in the next six months, including 33% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans, and 42% of independents.

In addition to focusing on the healthcare cost challenges Americans face, the survey looked at how inflation changed consumer behaviors. Driving less and cutting back on utilities were the top ways Americans tried to cope with higher prices.

Continued below image.
Graph relays information about the changing American consumer behavior due to higher-priced goods in the U.S.
Graph relays information about the changing American consumer behavior due to higher-priced goods in the U.S.
Continued...

"Inflation is hollowing out consumer spending habits across an array of areas," said Dan Witters, senior researcher at Gallup. "What is found just under the surface is that after gas and groceries, the role of inflation in reducing the pursuit of needed care is large and significant. And the rising cost of care itself, originating from an already elevated level, is having an outsized impact on lessening other forms of spending, compounding the problem."

Little Confidence Exists in Federal and State Governments to Curtail Costs

Irrespective of race, gender, income, or political identity, Americans hold little confidence in their elected representatives to Congress or their state government to slow rising costs. Three in five adults (59%) are "not at all confident," and another 35% are "not too confident" that their members of Congress will take action to lower healthcare costs in the coming months. Only 6% are "somewhat" or "very confident."

When viewed through a political lens, Republicans and independents report elevated levels of concern about future healthcare affordability, but Americans in all three political identity groups (more than nine in 10) are "not at all confident" or "not too confident" that members of Congress will take action.

Methodology

Results are based on a survey conducted by web June 2-16, 2022, with 3,001 adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as a part of the Gallup Panel. For results based on these data, the margin of sampling error at the 95% confidence level is +2.2 percentage points for response percentages around 50% and +1.3 percentage points for response percentages around 10% or 90%, design effect included. For reported subgroups, the margin of error will be larger, typically ranging from ±3 to ±4 percentage points.

Gallup uses probability-based, random sampling methods to recruit its Panel members. Gallup weighted the obtained samples to correct for nonresponse. Nonresponse adjustments were made by adjusting the sample to match the national gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, and region demographics. Demographic weighting targets were based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population.

Attribution/Source(s):

This quality-reviewed publication titled To Pay for Healthcare 98M Americans Skipped Treatments, Cut Back on Food, Gas, Utilities was chosen for publishing by Disabled World's editors due to its relevance to the disability community. While the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity, it was originally authored by West Health Institute and published 2022/08/04 (Edit Update: 2022/08/05). For further details or clarifications, you can contact West Health Institute directly at westhealth.org Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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