Amer­i­cans bor­rowed $88B for health care in 2018,

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KAREN ZRAICK

Amer­i­cans bor­rowed an es­ti­mated $88 bil­lion over the last year to pay for health care, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey re­leased Tues­day by Gallup and the non­profit West Health.

The sur­vey also found that 1 in 4 Amer­i­cans have skipped treat­ment be­cause of the cost, and that nearly half fear bank­ruptcy in the event of a health emer­gency. There was a par­ti­san di­vide when re­spon­dents were asked whether they be­lieved that the Amer­i­can health care sys­tem is among the best in the world: Among Re­pub­li­cans, 67 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they be­lieved so; that num­ber was 38 per­cent among Democrats.

But Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans had sim­i­lar re­sponses about putting off med­i­cal treat­ment. Asked if they had de­ferred treat­ment be­cause of the cost, 27 per­cent of Democrats said they had, com­pared with 21 per­cent of Re­pub­li­cans and 30 per­cent of in­de­pen­dents.

Re­spon­dents from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum also re­ported pessimism about their lead­ers’ abil­i­ties to re­duce health care costs. About 70 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they had no con­fi­dence in their elected of­fi­cials to bring prices down. And 77 per­cent said they were con­cerned that ris­ing health care costs would dam­age the Amer­i­can economy.

“Our data shows an Amer­i­can pub­lic that’s beaten down from this re­ally se­ri­ous issue,” said Dan Wit­ters, a se­nior re­searcher at Gallup.

At the same time, 64 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they were mostly sat­is­fied with their ex­pe­ri­ences in the health care sys­tem. When asked if they were sat­is­fied with how well the sys­tem was serv­ing Amer­i­cans gen­er­ally, only 39 per­cent said they were.

The sur­vey’s au­thors noted that Amer­i­cans’ feel­ings were com­pli­cated and at times con­flicted. But one thing was clear: High health care costs had cre­ated sig­nif­i­cant anx­i­ety.

Even among house­holds earn­ing $180,000 or more a year, a third of re­spon­dents said they were con­cerned about the specter of per­sonal bank­ruptcy due to a health cri­sis. (There has been fierce de­bate among re­searchers about the ex­tent to which health care costs can be blamed for bankrupt­cies.)

Many Amer­i­can fam­i­lies earn­ing less than that, of course, feel the ef­fects of high health care costs acutely. They are forced to cut back on other ex­penses to pay for health care, or skip ap­point­ments and pre­scrip­tion re­fills.

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