Thirty-two percent of Americans say they have had to put off medical care for themselves or their family in the past year due to the cost — the highest percentage since Gallup started tracking this annually in 2001. The percentage reporting they are putting treatment off is up significantly from the 19% found 12 years ago.
More than half of those with no health insurance say they have had to put off care (55%), as have 30% of those with private health insurance — while 21% of those who have Medicare or Medicaid say the same. This mirrors the divide in satisfaction with healthcare costs that Gallup found in the same Nov. 15-18 survey — a new high of 76% of Medicare/Medicaid recipients are satisfied, versus 57% of privately insured Americans. This gap of 19 percentage points is a drastic change from the early 2000s, when both groups were about equally satisfied.
More Americans have had to put off treatment for a serious condition than for a non-serious one — 19% vs. 13% — which has generally been the case in past years. The percentages putting off treatment for a serious or non-serious condition have nearly doubled since 2001.
The cost of healthcare is a longstanding issue in the United States. Americans since 2003 have named it first or second on a list of the most urgent health problems facing the country. The rising costs can put personal as well as public health at risk if Americans forgo treatment they need because they feel they cannot afford it. Indeed, Gallup finds more than three in 10 Americans are putting off needed care, even for serious medical issues.
As more Americans gain access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, it is possible that fewer will struggle to afford care. This alone, though, won’t solve the problem. Even 30% of those with private insurance and 21% of those with Medicare or Medicaid have also had to put off care due to cost.