A new survey by West Health and Gallup found that in the last six months, higher healthcare costs caused 38 percent of American adults, or about 98 million people, to either delay or skip treatment, cut back on driving, utilities, food, or borrow money to pay their medical bills.
The survey was done in June 2022, the same month that inflation hit 9.1 percent, a new high for the last 40 years.
People with lower incomes were more likely to make these kinds of choices, but people with higher incomes did it too.
More than half of households making less than $48,000 a year had to cut back on spending, but so did almost 20 percent of households making more than $180,000 a year.
Additionally, women under 50 cut back on medical treatment and medication at significantly higher rates than men do (36 percent compared to 27 percent, respectively) and far higher than men as a whole (22 percent).
“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,” says Timothy A. Lash, President, West Health.
“However, unlike those expenses, Congress has the power right now to reduce healthcare prices, particularly for prescription drugs. Legislation is on the table.”
Healthcare inflation in June 2022 was 4.5 percent, which was half the national inflation rate, which rose to 9.1 percent in June largely as a result of increased gas, food, and rent prices.
Given the increases in gas and food prices, the majority of Americans are not even considering how inflation may raise healthcare costs. When asked which expense they anticipated rising in price the most over the following six months, 43 percent of respondents said petrol, then food (34 percent). Only 3 percent of respondents highlighted the topic of healthcare.
One-fourth (26 percent) of Americans say they avoided medical care or buying prescription drugs entirely because of higher prices because they were either unable or unwilling to divert money from somewhere else to pay for it. This is in addition to the trade-offs that Americans are making to afford healthcare in the current inflationary environment.
For many Americans, the future is bleak when it comes to finding treatment at the drugstore counter. Overall, 39 percent, including 33 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Republicans, and 42 percent of independents, say they are “extremely concerned” or “concerned” about not being able to pay for healthcare in the upcoming six months.
The study not only concentrated on the problems Americans have with healthcare costs but also looked at how inflation was affecting consumer behavior. Most Americans sought to adjust to increasing rates by driving less and using fewer utilities.
According to Dan Witters, senior researcher at Gallup, “inflation is hollowing out consumer spending habits across an array of areas.”
“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, which is originating from an already elevated level, is having an outsized impact on lessening other forms of spending, compounding the problem.”
There is little faith in the ability of the federal and state governments to reduce costs.
Regardless of their color, gender, income level, or political affiliation, Americans have little faith in the ability of their state or federal governments to contain rising prices.
In the next months, 59 percent of individuals say they are “not at all confident” and another 35 percent say they are “not too confident” that their own members of Congress would move to reduce healthcare expenses. Only 6% of people describe their confidence as “somewhat” or “very confident.”
When looked at from a political perspective, Republicans and independents are more worried about the cost of healthcare in the future than Democrats and Democrats-leaning independents.
However, more than nine in ten Americans from all three political groups are “not at all confident” or “not too confident” that Congress will do something.
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