Americans Borrowed $88 Billion to Pay for Health Care Last Year, Survey Finds

Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion over the past 12 months to pay for well being care, in accordance to a survey launched on Tuesday by Gallup and the nonprofit West Health.

The survey additionally discovered that one in 4 Americans have skipped therapy due to the price, and that almost half worry chapter within the occasion of a well being emergency.

There was a partisan divide when respondents have been requested whether or not they believed that the American well being care system is among the many finest on the planet: Among Republicans, 67 p.c of respondents mentioned they believed so; that quantity was 38 p.c amongst Democrats.

But Democrats and Republicans had comparable responses about pushing aside medical therapy. Asked if that they had deferred therapy due to the price, 27 p.c of Democrats mentioned that they had, in contrast with 21 p.c of Republicans and 30 p.c of independents.

Respondents from throughout the political spectrum additionally reported pessimism about their leaders’ talents to scale back well being care prices. About 70 p.c of respondents mentioned that they had no confidence of their elected officers to carry costs down. And 77 p.c mentioned they have been involved that rising well being care prices would harm the American economic system.

“Our data shows an American public that’s beaten down from this really serious issue,” mentioned Dan Witters, a senior researcher at Gallup.

At the identical time, 64 p.c of respondents mentioned they have been largely glad with their experiences within the well being care system. When requested in the event that they have been glad with how effectively the system was serving Americans usually, solely 39 p.c mentioned they have been.

The survey’s authors famous that Americans’ emotions have been sophisticated and at instances conflicted. But one factor was clear: High well being care prices had created important anxiousness.

Even amongst households incomes $180,000 or extra a 12 months, a 3rd of respondents mentioned they have been involved concerning the specter of non-public chapter due to a well being disaster. (There has been fierce debate among researchers about the extent to which health care costs can be blamed for bankruptcies.)

Many American families earning less than that, of course, feel the effects of high health care costs acutely. They are forced to cut back on other expenses to pay for health care, or skip appointments and prescription refills, creating health risks down the road.

Twelve percent of respondents said they had borrowed money for care, including 11 percent of those with health insurance, who may still face high deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Most survey respondents said they believed that Americans were paying too much for health care relative to what they receive. Asked to choose between a hypothetical freeze in their health care costs or a 10 percent increase in household income, 61 percent of respondents chose the freeze. Those in low-income households were most likely to choose that option.

“When we’re talking about health care and the debate right now, it usually bifurcates between the financial impact of health care or the health outcomes themselves,” said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, a nonpartisan nonprofit that aims to lower health care prices.

“But those two things intersect at access,” which can have dire health consequences, he said.

The organization believes that Congress should allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies; that there should be more transparency about the prices of medicines and procedures; and that the health care industry should shift toward “value-based care” — in which doctors are paid based on patient outcomes — rather than the current “fee-for-service” model.

Mr. Lash noted that other wealthy countries spend much less on health care than the United States does, while achieving better outcomes in areas like life expectancy and infant mortality. Although about 87 percent of Americans have health insurance, according to data from Gallup, an individual’s plan may not cover all costs associated with treatment.

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