The high cost of medical treatment in the US is pushing a growing number of Americans to delay important medical care, according to findings of a new survey.
The annual health care poll by Gallup found, for example, that in 2022, 38% of Americans said they or a family member skipped or delayed medical care, a rise of 12% over 2021 and the highest year-to-year increase recorded since the Gallup poll was initiated in 2001.
The last highest proportion of Americans who said they avoided medical care for financial reasons was 33%, recorded in both 2014 and 2019. Gallup reported 2 consecutive readings of 26% during the COVID-19 pandemic years 2020 and 2021, the lowest share of US residents saying they delayed seeking care for either themselves or a family member since 2001.
Alarmingly, more than one-quarter (27%) say the treatment they have put on hold was for a “very” or “somewhat” serious condition. That is more than 2 times the proportion (11%) who said they decided against treatment for a non-serious condition. According to Gallup the percentage of Americans who said foregone care was for serious vs a nonserious condition has increased since 2004.
The survey findings revealed that income, age, and gender are associated with reports of delayed care, a result that has been consistent over time. Lower-income adults, younger adults, and women were more likely than their counterparts to postpone care for serious medical conditions.
Income. Americans with household incomes <$40 000 were almost twice as likely as those making ≥$100 000 to report that they or a family member delayed care for a serious medical condition in 2022 (34% vs 18%, respectively). In homes with annual income between $40 000 and $100 000, putting off needed care was reported by 29%.
Reports of delaying care for a serious condition have risen across the income spectrum, at 7 points for those of greatest financial means, 11 points for those in the middle-income group, and 12 points among those earning <$40 000. For the middle- and upper-income groups the latest readings are the highest or tied with the highest on record.
Age. Young and middle-aged adults were much more likely than older adults to say they or a family member had put medical care on hold for a serious health condition. Medicare coverage, Gallup points out, is most likely the reason.
Among adults aged 18 to 49 years, a new high of 35% reported waiting to seek care for themselves or family, while 25% in the 50- to 60-year-old group and 13% of those aged ≥65 years said the same. Those numbers for 2022 have increased by 12 points among the under-50 group, by 10 points among those aged 50 to 64 years and 6 points for those eligible for Medicare.
Gender. In 2022, women were more likely that men to report delaying medical treatment (32% vs 20%) for reasons of cost, a 12-point increase for the former and 5-point increase for the latter. The 12-point gender gap in 2022 is almost twice as wide as the average 7-point gap recorded since 2001.
As explanation, in part, for the sharp rise in the proportion of Americans tabling medical care, including for serious conditions, the Gallup team points to the highest inflation rate in 40 years that made 2022 a challenge for many. A majority of US adults claim at least moderate hardship as prices continue to escalate. Populations most likely to delay important appointments and potentially worthy of outreach this year are women, young adults, and those in lower-income households.