One-Third of Americans Still Delay Healthcare Due to Cost

Nearly 31% of Americans confirmed that they have postponed medical treatment for either themselves or a family member in 2015 because of the cost.

Nearly 31% of Americans confirmed that they have postponed medical treatment for either themselves or a family member in 2015 because of the cost, according to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 4-8.

The results are effectively unchanged from 2014’s, when the poll revealed that 33% Americans had put off medical treatment because of cost. While a majority (68%) of Americans did not delay health treatments because of the cost, the grim fact remains that the number of people who forego health treatments because of the cost is still very high despite implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

For Americans, cost is a major hindrance in seeking medical help. In fact, cost is the second most urgent health problem, the first being access to healthcare. Less than 1 in 4 Americans are satisfied with the cost of healthcare. For the last 15 years, at least 19% of Americans have found the cost of healthcare unaffordable and, in turn, have avoided a medical treatment that could include tests, treatments, follow-up care, and prescription drugs.

The ACA had 2 objectives: provide coverage for more of the uninsured and make healthcare more affordable. According to Gallup, the rate of uninsured fell from 16.4% in 2010 to 11.6% in 2015. But while the rate of uninsured has definitely shown a promising change, the affordability of the ACA hasn’t worked well for all. In fact, the percentage of patients forgoing medical treatment because of costs has remained constant since the law was passed in 2010.

The ACA’s major purpose is to make healthcare affordable for all Americans. This would be achieved by barring insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and in turn, ensure every individual to get access to health insurance. The provisions of the Act would also bring down the cost of healthcare services for most.

However, this piece of evidence shines a new spotlight on the perception of healthcare services under the ACA. While the law has been successful in bringing in more individuals under the blanket of health insurance, it has been ineffective in the cost-related metric because a consistent third of the country still prefer to forego medical treatment, as they cannot afford to pay for it.

Cost Still a Hurdle for Most Americans With Serious Conditions

The poll also revealed the percentage of people more likely to postpone medical care for a serious condition versus a non-serious one. This year, 19% said they would postpone treatment for a serious health condition if they couldn’t afford it and 12% would forego treatment for a non-serious condition.

The percentage of Americans saying they were delaying treatment for a serious condition has been increasing consistently since 2001, reaching a high of 22% last year. However the percentage of American adults putting off treatment for a non-serious condition has remained relatively stable.