Health care: Americans are increasingly delaying medical care due to cost
The U.S. health care system is once again falling short for Americans.
A new Federal Reserve survey found that 28% of respondents went “without some form of medical care” due to cost in 2022, which represented a 4 percentage-point year-over-year increase.
The survey found that dental care was the most frequently skipped medical service, followed by a doctor’s visit, prescription medication, a follow-up visit, and mental health care or counseling.
“The increase in this measure may, in part, reflect consumer responses to inflation as medical care is an area where people can save money by cutting back on spending,” the Federal Reserve wrote in its annual "Economic Well-Being of US Households" report.
As of June 2021, US consumers held roughly $88 billion in medical debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). An estimated 41% of Americans are grappling with medical debt of some kind. These debts can stem from unexpected medical events, surprise medical bills, out-of-pocket costs, and more.
Out-of-pocket costs are continuing to rise, averaging $1,315 per capita in 2021. For those with employer-sponsored insurance, the average single deductible has increased by more than 57% since 2013, while the average family deductible has risen by more than 55%.
Meanwhile, according to the Fed survey, 23% of adults reported major, unexpected medical expenses within the past 12 months, with the median cost ranging between $1,000 and $1,999. Additionally, 16% of adults indicated they had medical debt, either from their own care or from that of a family member.
“The whole health care financing system is broken,” Eva Stahl, vice president of public policy at RIP Medical Debt, previously told Yahoo Finance. “This is not a single-problem issue. Health insurance does not meet people’s needs, leaving them unable to weather medical bills. Patients are asked to pay amounts they generally can’t afford which discourages them from seeking care at all.”
The Fed’s survey findings indicate Stahl’s assessment may be accurate — among respondents with family income less than $25,000, 38% deferred medical care because they were unable to afford it, compared to 11% of adults making $100,000 or more.
For individuals who are uninsured — which make up roughly 8% of US adults — 42% had delayed medical treatment because of cost, compared with 26% of insured individuals.
Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at email@example.com.
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