Poll shows Americans having trouble paying medical bills, delaying treatments

More than a quarter of Americans reported having difficulties paying their medical bills in the past 12 months, and many are delaying or forgoing treatments due to cost concerns.

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 26% of American households reported problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months and that 58% of those surveyed had delayed or skipped medical care due to concerns over high costs.

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People who earn less and who are in poorer health are the most likely to skip medical care.

The survey found that 72% of households earning less than $40,000 a year, 54% of households earning between $40,000 to $90,000 a year, and 38% of households earning more than $90,000 reported abstaining or deferring treatment.

Three out of four Americans in fair or poor health held off on seeking medical care because they cannot afford the treatments.

Surprisingly, more than half – 55% – of those under the age of 65 who have health insurance reported delaying or forgoing medical treatment due to cost concerns.

Among those who delayed or skipped medical care, 38% reported relying more on “home remedies or over‐the‐ counter drugs instead of going to see a doctor”; 35% skipped “dental care or checkups”; 29% postponed “getting health care [they] needed”; 25% skipped “recommended medical test or treatment”; 24% did not fill “a prescription for a medicine”; 16% cut “pills in half or skipped doses of medicine”; and 8% experienced “problems getting mental health care”.

“While economic challenges facing the country continue and the Supreme Court is deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the survey finds that the problems and concerns related to health care costs and access are wide‐spread. Many provisions of the ACA are designed to improve access and affordability to health care and health insurance, but most of these changes will not be implemented until 2014,” according to Kaiser’s May Health Tracking Poll released on Monday.

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The Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of June whether or not to uphold the health care reform law.

Since the ACA’s passage in 2009, the Obama administration has advocated the potential cost-savings that could be achieved by the ACA’s individual coverage mandate and medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement that private insurers must devote at least 80% to 85% of the premiums they charge on medical care. The administration argued that the Affordable Care Act is needed to curb the skyrocketing cost of health care that’s threatening the nation’s long-term economic growth.

Read more: Health care law’s MLR provision would have saved consumers $2 billion in 2010

Opponents of Affordable Care Act argued that the individual mandate – which requires nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance coverage through employer-sponsored plans, private plans offered through health exchanges, or public health insurance such as Medicare and the expanded Medicaid program – is unconstitutional because the government cannot compel people to engage in commerce by purchasing goods or services.

The Kaiser survey was conducted between May 8 – 14, 2012 with a sample size of 1,218 and a margin of error of 3%.

Highlights of the survey results: 

  • 26% had problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months
  • 58% delayed or skipped medical care in the past 12 months because of the cost
  • 38% relied on home remedies or over‐the‐ counter drugs instead of going to see a doctor
  • 35% skipped dental care or checkups
  • 29% put off or postponed getting health care you needed
  • 25% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment
  • 24% did not filled a prescription for a medicine
  • 16% cut pills in half or skipped doses of medicine
  • 8% experienced problems getting mental health care
  • 64% are worried about having to pay more for health care or health insurance


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3 Comments on “Poll shows Americans having trouble paying medical bills, delaying treatments

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