Rising health care costs, inflation lead Americans to skip or delay treatment

·3 min read

Story at a glance

  • Rising inflation and health care costs are straining Americans’ pursestrings when it comes to paying for care and prescription medication.

  • New results of a West Health-Gallup poll show the majority of participants have little faith in the government to lower the cost of care.

  • However, the Inflation Reduction Act may offer some relief for Medicare beneficiaries paying high out-of-pocket prices for certain medications.

Steep inflation rates have prompted many Americans to make cuts to their everyday spending in order to pay for health care expenses, according to a new poll conducted by West Health and Gallup.

Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said they had cut back on driving, utilities, and food, and skipped treatments to pay medical bills in the last six months. This cohort also reported borrowing money to meet health care costs.

In addition, 26 percent of respondents said they avoided medical care and paying for prescription drugs altogether due to costs.

“People have been making tradeoffs to pay for health care for years,” said Timothy A. Lash, president of West Health in a statement. “Inflation has only made things worse as people are also now struggling with the high price of gas, food, and electricity.” West Health is a non-profit organization with the mission of lowering health care costs for seniors.

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A total of 3,001 adults completed the survey between June 2 and 16, 2022, the month the U.S. inflation rate reached a 40-year high of 9.1 percent. At this time, health care inflation accounted for half of this total at 4.5 percent.

The 38 percent of adults who reported spending cuts represent approximately 98 million Americans, while those in lower-income households — earning less than $48,000 per year — were more likely to make the financial trade offs.

However, 19 percent of households earning $180,000 annually or more also reported spending cuts and women under the age of 50 and in general were more likely to cut back on medical care and medicine than males.

Unlike expenses for gas, food and electricity, “congress has the power right now to reduce health care prices, particularly for prescription drugs. Legislation is on the table,” said Lash, in reference to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act which would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for select prescription drugs.

Nearly 40 percent of participants said they were extremely concerned or concerned about paying for health care in the next six months, but when asked which expenses respondents expected to increase, only three percent reported health care costs compared with 43 percent who cited gas prices.

“Inflation is hollowing out consumer spending habits across an array of areas. What is found just under the surface is that after gas and groceries, the role of inflation in reducing the pursuit of needed care is large and significant,” said Dan Witters, a senior researcher at Gallup, in a press release. 

“The rising cost of care itself, which is originating from an already elevated level, is having an outsized impact on lessening other forms of spending, compounding the problem,” he continued.

The majority of those surveyed also had little faith in state or federal representatives to slow rising costs of health care, a finding consistent regardless of race, gender, income level, or political party affiliation.

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