As the cost of health care rises, more and more Americans in nearly every economic class are choosing to delay medical treatment because they can’t afford it.
A new Gallup poll released Friday found that about one in three Americans say they have put off treatment for themselves or a family member because of cost—the highest rate recorded in Gallup’s history.
Gallup said that about 38 percent of middle class people with a household income of between $30,000 and $75,000 per year have delayed medical care because of costs, up from 33 percent last year.
Meanwhile, about 28 percent of households earning above $75,000 said they delayed care this year, compared to just 17 percent in 2013.
“Variation in the pricing for medical treatments, not to mention differences in how much insurance plans cover, could be confusing Americans or making them fear a needed treatment is too expensive,” the Gallup poll noted.
The poll comes just weeks after the start of Obamacare’s second open enrollment period, which runs into February 15, 2015. Last year, around seven million people got health coverage through the new law’s exchanges and millions more obtained access through Medicaid expansion.
Despite expanding access to health insurance to millions of people, the survey suggests that Obamacare hasn’t tackled one of its major goals: making health care more affordable.
“Despite a drop in the uninsured rate, a slightly higher percentage of Americans than in previous years report having put off medical treatment, suggesting that the Affordable Care Act has not immediately affected this measure,” Gallup’s Rebecca Riffkin wrote in a blog post.
That’s likely because many of the plans sold on the law’s health exchanges tend to be considered high deductible plans, meaning they may have lower premiums but high out of pocket costs.
The Internal Revenue Service defines high deductible plans as those with annual deductibles of $1,300 or more for individuals or $2,600 for families.
A recent study by HealthPocket found that the average deductible for 2015 Bronze-level policies, the lowest tiered plan, is about $5,181 for individuals - up from $5,081 last year and about four times the IRS’s benchmark for high-deductible plans. Families who enroll in these plans have deductibles averaging about $10,500 deductibles.
“One of the goals of opening the government exchanges was to enable more Americans to get health insurance to help cover the costs of needed medical treatments,” Riffkin wrote on the Gallup site. “While many Americans have gained insurance, there has been no downturn in the percentage who say they have had to put off needed medical treatment because of cost.”
It’s not just Obamacare policies that are trending toward higher cost sharing plans. In the last few years, employers have begun shifting their workers into higher deductible plans as the overall cost of health care continues to rise.
Gallup’s poll found that the cost of health care is only expected to climb. A new report from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute says health care costs are expected to jump 6.8 percent overall next year. Therefore, as costs rise it’s likely that more people will continue to put off care.
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