Inflation nightmare: Rising healthcare costs driving 98 million Americans to skip care or cut expenses

WASHINGTON — Nearly 40 percent of American adults have had to choose between paying for medical treatment or affording essentials like groceries or gas for their car, a new survey reveals.

A June poll by West Health and Gallup found roughly 98 million American adults either delayed or completely skipped treatment, cut back on driving, spent less on utilities or food, or borrowed money just to pay their medical bills over the previous six months. In June 2022, inflation rose to 9.1 percent — a 40-year high in the United States.

Although lower-income families are feeling the effects of inflation more than others, the poll finds even high-income Americans are struggling to make ends meet. More than half of the respondents making less than $48,000 a year say they’ve made spending cuts to battle the rising cost of healthcare. One in five Americans making over $180,000 a year said the same.

Inflation is particularly affecting women under 50, with 36 percent cutting back on medical care, compared to 27 percent of men under 50 and 22 percent of men overall.

“People have been making tradeoffs to pay for healthcare for years. Inflation has only made things worse as people are also now struggling with the high price of gas, food, and electricity,” says Timothy Lash, President of West Health, in a media release. “However, unlike those expenses, Congress has the power right now to reduce healthcare prices, particularly for prescription drugs. Legislation is on the table.”

Specifically, healthcare inflation stood at 4.5 percent when researchers conducted the poll in June. That’s half of overall inflation, which is mainly the result of rising gas, food, and rent prices.

Most people aren’t even thinking about healthcare right now

Interestingly, when researchers asked Americans “which one of the following expenses do you expect costs to rise the most in the next six months?”, only three percent mentioned healthcare. Gas topped the list (43%), followed by food (34%).

It turns out, as people look for ways to afford gas and groceries, one in four (26%) are skipping their normal trip to the pharmacy. These Americans are avoiding medical treatment completely or not purchasing their prescription drugs because of the higher prices. These respondents added that they were either unable or unwilling to take money from other expenses to cover the cost of their medications.

Moving forward, nearly four in 10 Americans don’t see any relief in sight. Overall, 30 percent are “extremely concerned” or “concerned” about their ability to afford medical care throughout the rest of 2022. This includes 44 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of independents, and 33 percent of Democrats.

“Inflation is hollowing out consumer spending habits across an array of areas,” says Dan Witters, senior researcher at Gallup. “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. And 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.”

No confidence in Congress

Regardless of the respondents’ race, gender, income, or political affiliation, 59 percent say they are “not at all confident” Congress will successfully lower healthcare costs this year.

More than nine in 10 Americans, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents, say they’re “not at all confident” or “not too confident” that Congress will take action to address future healthcare affordability.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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