More Americans Delay Medical Treatment Because of Cost

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Some sick Americans have probably become sicker because they do not believe they can pay for appropriate treatment. And the trend has spiked since last year.

A new Gallup poll on cost-related delays for medical treatment found that 25% of Americans “say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost” The figure was only 19% in 2018. The number is even above those during the Great Recession.

The same trend holds true when Americans consider the cost of treatment for any medical problems. Together with the treatment of serious medical conditions, the figures sum to 33%. That is the highest since 2001, with the exception of 2013, when the figure was also 33%.

The trends are driven largely by income inequality when measuring serious medical conditions. Among people with incomes below $40,000, 36% delay treatment. The figure drops to 25% for people who earn between $40,000 and $100,000. It drops even further, to 13%, among people who make $100,000 or more a year.

Gallup points out several potential effects of the trend. The first is that delays in serious conditions such as injuries and chronic problems can have an impact on the economy, as these people may be missing from the workforce. The eventual costs of their treatment may be higher than if they were addressed sooner. Additionally, a serious illness not treated can cause trips to emergency rooms, which put pressure and add to costs of the nation’s emergency medical system.

No matter what conclusions Gallup draws from the data, there is no good outcome that can be taken from the survey. Very simply, the sick almost certainly are getting sicker.


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