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When will Congress control health care costs?

Written by Diane Archer

A February 2018 West Health Institute/NORC poll, complements findings from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. It finds that unreasonable health care costs have driven four in ten Americans to forego medical care and one in three to fail to comply with their medication regimen. When will Congress control health care costs?

Not only are health costs undermining Americans’ access to care, they are eating deeply into people’s savings, forcing people to incur excessive credit card debt, requiring them to choose between paying medical bills and other necessities, and preventing people from saving money. Americans fear the costs that generally accompany a serious health condition more than the condition itself.

Costly health care needs affect the financial security of most Americans.  In the last year, because of health care costs, more than half of Americans (53 percent) reported that they either: lost most or all of their savings (36 percent); incurred significant credit card debt (32 percent); made a tradeoff between paying their medical bills and paying for necessities such as food, heat and housing (30 percent); or could not save money (40 percent). One in four Americans reported having  a medical bill turned over to a collection agency. Nearly half (47 percent) said that they skipped a routine dental cleaning or checkup.

Not surprisingly, 75 percent of Americans recognize that the US is not getting good value for its health care dollars. More than half were surprised to receive higher medical bills than they expected and to learn that their insurers were not covering parts of their care. And, half do not approve of the way Congress is handling the issue of health care costs as compared to 15 percent who approve.

More than half of Americans believe that Congress should make access to health care a priority for older Americans. More than half of Americans also want Congress to keep or increase financial support for Medicare and Social Security. These Americans say that they support increasing their payroll contributions to cover the costs. More than half of Americans (60 percent) want their members of Congress to support policies to assist older adults in getting needed care and supportive services.

Americans appreciate that Medicare and Social Security are intergenerational programs. We all sleep better at night knowing that Medicare and Social Security provide health and financial security for our parents and grandparents.

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