Investigation: As coronavirus spreads, nearly one in 3 Americans admit not seeking medical attention due to cost
At a time when access to health care has become all the more critical to contain the coronavirus epidemic, many Americans find themselves unable to afford medical treatment.
Nearly one in three American families (or 32 percent) decided not to see a doctor in the past 12 months because of the cost, according to a national Bankrate survey. This includes everything from doctor visits and medications to vaccinations, annual checkups, eye checks and more.
It comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has surpassed 1,000, with 29 deaths to date, according to John Hopkins University. database tracking contagion. The virus has appeared in 38 states, as well as the District of Columbia, California and New York declaring states of emergency.
Key points to remember:
Medical care is a crucial part of both curbing the spread of the virus and ensuring Americans are healthy enough to bounce back. Although the pathogen cannot be prevented by a vaccine or antiviral treatment, health experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend receive medical care to help relieve symptoms and, in more severe cases, support the function of vital organs. Experts say accessibility issues that persist in normal times may make handling of the outbreak worse.
“If people don’t believe the tests will be free, they might resist getting tested when they suspect they may have the disease,” says Stephen Zuckerman, senior partner and vice president of health policy at the Urban Institute. “Even if a person has mild symptoms, they could pass them on to someone who might end up having a more serious reaction.”
Coronavirus treatments a challenge for 27.5 million uninsured people
The first step in knowing if an individual is indeed infected with the new coronavirus – officially known as COVID-19 – requires testing. In some cases, this can be costly. A man from Miami would have accumulated $ 3,270 in medical bills after going to hospital with flu-like symptoms following a trip to China.
The federal government has already made it clear that it will subsidize testing kits for Medicaid and Medicare patients, while the CDC and other public health labs are offering free testing for the virus. Nonetheless, patients could be billed if they seek treatment at academic medical centers or commercial establishments – a provision now authorized, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended its policy of authorizing the use of emergency (UAE) to allow more labs to perform coronavirus testing.
Some insurance companies try to limit consumers’ personal spending for testing, while some states prevent insurers from charging huge fees for diagnostic tests. But that doesn’t solve the problem of the 27.5 million uninsured people, according to Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
“It’s a situation where you have a generalized epidemic like this and you really see the potential public health effect of having all of these gaps in coverage,” he says.
Health care, a major issue for voters in 2020
But healthcare hasn’t been in the spotlight just because of the coronavirus outbreak. Another Bankrate poll from July 2019 found that health care is one of the most important issues for voters in the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections.
Americans are not happy with the current system, according to Bankrate’s March healthcare survey. Only 6 percent of survey respondents indicate health care in the United States is good as it is. That’s in large part because of affordability, according to Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.
“Health care costs hurt Americans’ personal finances, which is why they are making it an urgent political priority,” says Hamrick. “The desire for change is a rare case where most agree.”
When it comes to party preference, more Americans (40%) said they believe Democrats are best prepared to come up with solutions to address the country’s health challenges. This compares to 27% of people who prefer the Republican Party.
This could be because Democrats proposed more changes to the broader health care system, as they attempt to challenge President Donald Trump in November. Although the field has now practically narrowed down to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders as a potential candidate, most of the 28 total candidates who tossed their hats in the ring had offered to extend health insurance coverage to all. Americans.
Millennials, people with private plans more likely to avoid treatment
According to the Bankrate survey, people who chose not to receive medical care because of the cost vary by age, ethnicity and income group.
Almost 2 in 5 millennials (or 40%) said they avoided medical care because of the cost, the highest of any older age group. That total rose to 35 percent for Generation X and 24 percent for Baby Boomers. This is likely because millennials are newer to the workforce and therefore haven’t started earning as much as their older counterparts, Zuckerman says.
Unsurprisingly, coverage gaps were more prevalent, the less an individual earned. For those whose incomes total less than $ 40,000 each year, 37 percent refused health care because of the cost. This compares to 29% of those who say they earn more than $ 80,000.
When it comes to demographics, Latinos were the most likely to be left behind, with 37% of salaries falling due to affordability constraints. This compares to 30% of people who identified as white and 29% who were African American.
The situation also looked darker for families. More than 2 in 5 families (43%) with children under 18 refused health treatment, compared to 27% of those with children over 18 and 31% of those who were neither parent or guardian.
But the Bankrate poll found that having insurance won’t entirely solve the problem. Families with privately purchased plans were more likely to have avoided medical care because of the cost (44%) – more than the uninsured (33%), as well as those with insurance from a health care provider. employer (34%) or through a government program like this one. like Medicare or Medicaid (26 percent).
Americans go into debt, borrow money from families to pay for treatment
Americans were more likely to face higher health care costs, according to the survey. Half of all Americans who had a health expense in the past 12 months said it ended up being more expensive, compared with 40% who said it was about what they expected and 10% who thought it was cheaper.
When it comes to paying for these treatments, Americans would have gone to great lengths.
Almost one in 10 people (or 9 percent) had to take on large debts, while 8 percent had to borrow money from friends or family and 7 percent had to dip into their savings – retirement. Some Americans (6%) had to find another job. Others (5%) sold assets or personal effects, while 3% borrowed money from their home equity and 3% filed for debt consolidation or filed for bankruptcy.
What could help the affordability problem
Democratic hopes have their fair share of ideas for solving these problems. Sanders has pledged to create a “Medicare for All” system, while Biden has previously expressed his intention to require all individuals to have some form of insurance. While these are both viable options, the goal should instead be to create a universally affordable health care system, Zuckerman said.
“You can do it by relying on the Affordable Care Act, and you can do it with Medicare for All,” Zuckerman says. “The specific approach is probably less important than getting affordable coverage.”
It’s not just about having insurance, Zuckerman says. Even people who have a plan to cover their medical bills still face high deductibles and often limiting premiums.
More than 8 out of 10 covered workers (i.e. 82%) are enrolled in a plan with an annual deductible, the average annual amount for a single person being $ 1,655, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. These costs have continued to increase, with the 2019 average being 41% above the average annual deductible in 2014 and 162% higher than the average deductible in 2009.
“Employers control their costs by pushing more costs onto individuals,” Zuckerman says. “It creates affordability problems for people, and this is one of the reasons why health care affordability is a major issue in the country.”
All of this is potentially difficult for the United States as it responds to the outbreak, he says. “People are not getting the care they think they need because of the cost. This phenomenon could also occur here. “
What this means for you
It is important to treat health care costs like you would treat an unforeseen expense. In addition to set aside up to three to six months of expenses in an accessible liquid account, consider contributing to a health savings account to help account for high premiums or health care expenses that insurance will not typically cover.
Many savings accounts on the market offer returns up to 18 times the national average. Use Bankrate’s tools and tips to help you find the right account option for you.
“Health care costs, including the most significant resulting from an unforeseen accident or illness, can inflict lasting financial damage,” says Hamrick. “One way to guard against this is to save for emergencies. It is better to have that money in savings to try to avoid the overhead and worry. “
Bankrate.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the consumer survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,596 adults, of which 2,053 reported having had health expenses in the past 12 months. Fieldwork was undertaken from February 12-14, 2020. The survey was conducted online and meets rigorous quality standards. It used a non-probability sample using both quotas at the start of collection, and then a downstream weighting scheme designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.