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Poll reveals that one in four older adults put off getting care for a serious medical condition

a href="">Gallup
Written by Diane Archer

One in three adults in the US report not having been able to afford care in the past year, according to the latest Gallup health care poll. And, one in four adults put off getting care for a serious medical condition because of the cost. How many more people will go without care or be driven into medical debt before Congress acts?

The proportion of Americans who report not getting care for a serious medical condition this year is up 33 percent from last year, 25 percent this year, and 19 percent last year. If you add in the people who said that they put off care for a less serious condition during the last year, 8 percent, one of every three Americans put off care they needed because of the cost. That’s a 50 percent increase from 2001. Not surprisingly, Americans are looking for more than incremental change in our health care system.

The cost of care has been prohibitive for millions of Americans for more than three decades now. And, the situation only has gotten worse. In 1991, when Gallup first started polling on this issue, more than one in five people, 22% said that they or a family member put off getting care because of the cost. Of those, half had a serious condition requiring treatment.

People with annual household incomes under $40,000 have the most difficulty affording care for a serious condition. Over the last year, more than one in three of them (36 percent) said they put off care for a serious condition, up from 23 percent last year. One in four people with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 said they put off care for a serious condition this last year, about the same percentage as last year.

The data speaks for itself. The US is rationing care based on ability to pay. Corporate health insurers do not provide coverage that adequately protects people from financial risk. About 12 percent of people with pre-existing conditions reported not getting care because of the cost. Even people with annual incomes over $100,000 are foregoing care. About one in eight of them, 13 percent, reported delaying care for a serious or somewhat serious condition because of the cost.

This year’s increase in the proportion of people delaying care does not appear related to the type of coverage they have. The increase was the same for people with private insurance, Medicare and the uninsured.

The Gallup report notes that there appears to be a partisan element to the polling data. The recent increase in the proportion of people reporting that they delayed getter care is significantly greater among Democrats, up 12 percent, than Independents and Republicans, up three to five percent respectively.

Delayed care not only can hurt Americans, it can hurt the economy. It can mean lower productivity on the job. And, it can mean greater health care spending over time.

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