More Upper-Income Americans Delaying Medical Care

Despite a drop in the uninsured rate stemming from the Affordable Care Act, more Americans are putting off medical treatment because of the cost of healthcare, according to the results of an annual Gallup survey.

Despite a drop in the uninsured rate stemming from the Affordable Care Act, more Americans are putting off medical treatment because of the cost of healthcare, according to the results of an annual Gallup survey.

Every November Gallup polls Americans to see if they have put off medical treatment for themselves or their families in the past 12 months. In 2014, a third of respondents put off getting medical treatment, which is among the highest readings in the 14 years of asking the question, but is still in line with the roughly 30% response seen in recent years.

In comparison, in 2001, just 19% of people admitted to putting off medical treatment because of the cost.

“One of the goals of opening the government exchanges was to enable more Americans to get health insurance to help cover the costs of needed medical treatments,” Gallup reported. “While many Americans have gained insurance, there has been no downturn in the percentage who say they have had to put off needed medical treatment because of cost.”

Although the uninsured are still the most likely to put off care, there has been a large increase among those with private insurance from 25% putting off care in 2013 to 34% in 2014. In comparison, 57% of uninsured have delayed treatment while 22% with Medicare or Medicaid have done so.

There has also been a large increase in upper-income Americans putting off medical treatment. While those with household income below $30,000 are actually less likely to delay care compared with 2013, those with household income of more than $75,000 are more likely to delay treatment, increasing from 17% in 2013 to 28% in 2014.

Overall, 22% of Americans admitted they put off treatment for a “very” or “somewhat serious” condition, while only 11% put off treatment for a non-serious condition. Typically, Americans are more likely to delay treatment for serious conditions according to the 14-year history of the Gallup poll.

“Variation in the pricing for medical treatments, not to mention differences in how much insurance plans cover, could be confusing Americans or making them fear a needed treatment is too expensive,” Gallup concluded. “And while the costs of medical procedures aren't rising as rapidly as they once were, it is still too early to tell if that is an effect of the Affordable Care Act and how prices may change in the future.”