When we become ill or get injured, it seems only natural to seek out medical treatment. But as recent research shows, more than half of Americans choose to delay, or totally refrain from getting, health-related care due to one factor: overwhelming costs.
Around 27% of U.S. patients reported that they visited an urgent care center between 2014 and 2016. But new data shows that a significant number of Americans are postponing or bypassing medical treatment that could improve their health. In fact, 52% of adults surveyed said their reason for doing so during the last year was because they couldn’t afford it, while 23% of respondents said they had put off receiving treatment for more than a year for the same reason.
Three types of care emerged as the ones that were delayed or avoided the most. Around 55% of people said they put off dental or orthodontic work during the last year, despite the fact that 20% of US adults said they suffered from anxiety due to the condition of their teeth during 2015. Approximately 43% chose to delay their eye care and 30% opted to wait on their annual physical exams due to costs.
Of course, it doesn’t help matters that health insurance premiums keep rising. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to make obtaining healthcare coverage possible for all Americans, insurers keep raising their rates. When premiums cost more, many Americans have to opt for lower tiers of coverage — meaning that their monthly payments and their appointments are typically both more expensive than before.
Although 84% of respondents in a 2017 survey agreed that most people require some amount of life insurance, some US residents are rethinking having health insurance at all. The ACA required Americans to sign up for healthcare coverage, charging them a fine for not doing so. But now, the Obamacare tax penalty for those without health insurance is no longer in effect. Starting in 2019, experts predict that a lot of residents will start to drop their healthcare coverage completely so they aren’t forced to pay that fine — which can reach $1000 — on their yearly taxes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the penalty’s repeal will cause 4 million Americans to discontinue their health insurance coverage next year, and by 2027, that number could top 13 million.
Already, the number of Americans without health insurance is on the rise. A recent Georgetown University report revealed that 3.9 million children did not have health insurance in 2017, representing a 1.3% increase from the year prior. Experts attribute the increase to misleading news reports, funding decreases for ACA navigators, and a proposal that could make it hard for legal immigrants to receive green cards if they’ve received certain types of public assistance, including Medicaid.
The sad reality is that less than 40% of Americans have enough money in savings to cover a $1000 emergency. The prevalence of loans and debts combined with low wages and the increasing costs of living can make it impossible for Americans to prioritize their health. In fact, 49% of Americans say their health issues typically take a back seat to other financial obligations. As yet, there’s no real solution on the horizon, forcing many Americans to make significant sacrifices for the time being.
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