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More Than Half of American Families Skimped on Medical Care in Past Year, Survey Finds

Resource type: News

Philanthropy News Digest |

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As economic conditions continue to worsen, the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, so much so that more than half of American families postponed or skipped treatments due to cost in the past year, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds.

According to the foundation’s first healthcare tracking poll of 2009, 53 percent of Americans said their household cut back on health care due to cost concerns in the past twelve months, relying instead on home remedies and over-the-counter drugs rather than visiting a doctor (35 percent), skipping dental care (34 percent), not filling a prescription (21 percent), or cutting pills in half or skipping doses to make prescriptions last longer (15 percent). In a riskier attempt to make ends meet, 27 percent put off needed care, including 16 percent who postponed a doctor’s visit related to a chronic illness like diabetes or delayed major or minor surgery.

Not all medical care can be postponed, however. According to the survey, 19 percent of Americans recently experienced serious financial problems due to family medical bills. Indeed, 13 percent have used up all or most of their savings trying to pay off high medical bills in the past year, while just as many said their medical debt means they have difficulty paying other bills. Of those who currently have health coverage, a third are worried they will lose it, including those in households earning between $30,000 and $75,000 per year.

Given the country’s ongoing economic challenges, 62 percent of Americans support healthcare reform. “When half the public reports skimping on care because they can’t afford it, it’s very clear that what the public wants most from health reform is relief from healthcare costs,” said Kaiser Foundation president and CEO Drew Altman. “Far more people see themselves directly benefiting from health reform, and far fewer see themselves being negatively affected than we saw in the Clinton health reform debate. Today’s economic anxieties have created a better starting point for health reform than we saw last time around.”

“ More Than Half of Americans Say Family Skimped on Medical Care Because of Cost in Past Year.” Kaiser Family Foundation Press Release 2/25/09.

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