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Financial Obstacles Preventing Some Americans from Getting Needed Health Care

April 23, 2018

A new consumer study indicates that many Americans (40%) fear the high costs associated with a serious illness more than the illness itself; only 33 percent feared the illness more. Survey findings also identified serious disparities; Hispanic and black Americans and families with lower incomes had greater concerns about medical bills than other Americans did.

The study, conducted during February, by the West Health Institute and NORC (formerly called the National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, represents a nationwide poll of U.S. adults. Survey questions focused on medical costs, coverage, and national health care-related policy.

Significant results about medical costs include:

  • Forty percent (40%) of respondents skipped a physician-recommended test or treatment because of expected cost
  • Forty-four percent (44%) of respondents didn’t go to a doctor when sick or injured
  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of respondents didn’t fill a prescription or altered their medication schedule due to cost
  • More than half (54%) of those responding received a medical bill for costs they thought were covered by insurance
  • Forty-one percent (41%) of respondents said they couldn’t save money because of high medical expenses
  • Twenty-eight percent (28%) of respondents had a medical bill turned over to collections

With regard to national policy:

  • Forty-eight percent (48%) of respondents “strongly or somewhat favored” a single payor health care delivery system, compared to 38 percent (38%) one year ago
  • Seventy-four percent (74%) of respondents believe the U.S. doesn’t get good value for the price of its health care
  • Forty-nine percent (49%) of respondents disapprove of their representative in Congress’ performance with regard to national health care policy

HAP and the Pennsylvania hospital community continue to advocate for state and national policies that enhance access to care and promote transparency in consumer pricing:

  • Recent testimony during a state briefing stressed to lawmakers the importance of rural hospitals in ensuring access to health care for all Pennsylvanians
  • Listening session with federal lawmakers in Washington D.C. about food insecurity and its connection to good health
  • Support for Governor Wolf’s creation of the Pennsylvania Office of Broadband Initiatives and the full implementation of telemedicine to improve access and reduce costs
  • HAP’s Care in Pennsylvania, a health care consumer-friendly website, continues to be a useful Pennsylvania-specific resource for health care terminology, quality, and price information

For more information about HAP’s legislative efforts, contact Scott Bishop, senior vice president, legislative advocacy. Questions about HAP’s Care in Pennsylvania website should be directed to Philip Burrell, HAP’s director, research and data analytics.

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