Poll: Amer­i­cans Fear Crip­pling Med­i­cal Bills More than Ill­ness

The Jewish Voice - - HEALTH - Edited by: JV Staff

Med­i­cal care costs in the United States can be so over­whelm­ing that Amer­i­cans fear the cost of treat­ment more than the ill­ness it­self, a new poll shows.

"It's shock­ing and un­ac­cept­able that med­i­cal bills strike more fear in the hearts of Amer­i­cans than se­ri­ous ill­ness," said Shel­ley Ly­ford.

She is pres­i­dent and CEO of West Health In­sti­tute, a San Diego-based re­search group that teamed up with NORC at the Univer­sity of Chicago to con­duct the na­tion­wide poll.

More re­spon­dents (40 per­cent) feared the cost of treat­ing a se­ri­ous ill­ness than feared be­com­ing ill (33 per­cent).

The poll, of more than 1,300 adults, also found that 44 per­cent had not gone to the doc­tor when they were sick or in­jured within the past year, and 40 per­cent had skipped a sug­gested med­i­cal test or treat­ment be­cause of the ex­pense.

Nearly half of the re­spon­dents said they also went with­out a den­tal checkup or clean­ing in the past year, and 4 out of 10 said they didn't see a den­tist when they needed care.

Thirty per­cent said they had been forced to choose be­tween pay­ing for med­i­cal bills or ne­ces­si­ties such as food, heat­ing or hous­ing in the past year.

About one-third said they had not filled a pre­scrip­tion or took less than the pre­scribed dose to save money.

And re­spon­dents who said they didn't get a rec­om­mended test or treat­ment were about twice as likely to fear get­ting sick (47 per­cent vs. 24 per­cent) and to fret about the costs of care (60 per­cent vs. 27 per­cent).

"The high cost of health care has be­come a pub­lic health cri­sis that cuts across all ages as more Amer­i­cans are de­lay­ing or go­ing with­out rec­om­mended med­i­cal tests and treat­ments," said Dr. Zia Agha of West Health.

Re­spon­dents' fears were not un­founded: More than half said they had ex­pe­ri­enced se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial is­sues due to med­i­cal costs.

Thirty-six per­cent said they had used up all or most of their sav­ings; 32 per­cent had to bor­row money or in­crease credit card debt; and 41 per­cent were forced to re­duce con­tri­bu­tions to sav­ings plans.

More than half said they had been billed for some­thing they thought was cov­ered by health in­surance, and a sim­i­lar per­cent­age had re­ceived a med­i­cal bill that was higher than ex­pected. More than a quar­ter of re­spon­dents had a med­i­cal bill turned over to a col­lec­tion agency within the past year.

Even though $3.3 tril­lion was

spent on health care in the United States in 2016 — 17.9 per­cent of the na­tion's gross do­mes­tic prod­uct — three-quar­ters of the poll re­spon­dents said Amer­i­cans do not get good value for their money.

"Ac­cord­ing to this sur­vey, most Amer­i­cans do not feel they are get­ting a good value for their health care dol­lars, and the ris­ing cost of health care is clearly hav­ing a di­rect con­se­quence on Amer­i­cans' health and fi­nan­cial well-be­ing," Agha said in a news re­lease from NORC at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

The find­ings were pre­sented Mon­day at an Amer­i­can So­ci­ety on Ag­ing con­fer­ence, in San Fran­cisco.

Med­i­cal care costs in the United States can be so over­whelm­ing that Amer­i­cans fear the cost of treat­ment more than the ill­ness it­self, a new poll shows.

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