Number of Americans delaying care due to cost reaches 22-year high: Gallup

The polling organization also reported the largest year-over-year increase in deferred healthcare since first tracking the issue in 2001.

Nearly four out of ten Americans said they or a member of their families postponed medical care due to the cost, according to Gallup.

The polling organization said 38% of Americans deferred care due to cost concerns in 2022, the highest since Gallup began polling on that question in 2001. And it’s a noticeable gap over previous years. It tops the previous high by 5 percentage points, when 33% of Americans said they delayed care due to the cost.

The percentage of Americans delaying care is substantially higher than in 2021, when 26% of Americans postponed care for financial reasons, an increase of 12 percentage points. That’s also the highest year-over-year increase Gallup has recorded.

Hospitals have reported seeing sicker patients in recent months, and healthcare leaders say part of the reason is because Americans delayed healthcare during the pandemic.

Some Americans aren’t just putting off treatment for minor maladies, according to the Gallup poll.

More than a quarter of respondents (27%) said they delayed treatment for a very serious or somewhat serious condition of illness, while 11% said they postponed care for an issue that was not very serious or not at all serious. The 16-point gap in the gravity of the deferred treatment is the second highest by Gallup.

In unsurprising but nonetheless significant results, those with lower incomes were significantly more likely to delay medical care, according to Gallup.

About a third (34%) of Americans with an annual income under $40,000 said they or someone in their family delayed medical care for a serious condition, while 29% of those earning between $40,000 and less than $100,000 postponed treatment. Among those earning $100,000 or more, 18% deferred care for a serious condition.

Younger and middle-aged adults said they were more likely to delay care.

More than a third (35%) of Americans in the 18-49 age group said they or a family member postponed treatment, which Gallup said represents record. Meanwhile, 25% of those 50 to 64 years of age delayed care.

Among those 65 and over, 13% said they delayed care. Gallup notes the lower figure for those adults likely reflects the fact that Medicare covers Americans starting at the age of 65.

Healthcare leaders say they are worried about the toll of many Americans delaying care. In a recent survey by Sage Growth Partners, about one in five hospital executives (22%) said care delays are leading to increased acuity, while 12% said deferred care would lead to higher mortality.

The Gallup poll results support similar surveys indicating Americans are delaying care due to increasing costs. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that about half of all Americans have struggled to pay bills.