Gallup: Many insured patients skip care due to cost

Millions of insured Americans are foregoing care because they don't believe they can afford to pay their out-of-pocket costs, concludes a new Gallup poll on health coverage. One in three Americans say they put off obtaining medical care because of the cost--among the highest response rates since Gallup began posing the question in 2000.

Although income tends to play a role in the decision-making process, there was a sharp drop in putting off care among those with income under $30,000--35 percent in that group said they had done so this year, compared to 43 percent last year. The poll also showed a rise in delaying care among the middle and higher income brackets. Among those with income between $30,000 and $75,000 a year, 38 percent said they had put off care, compared to 33 percent in 2013. Above $75,000 a year, the percentage rose from 17 percent in 2013 to 28 percent this year.

Of those who have put off treatment, 22 percent said it was for a serious or somewhat serious medical condition.

The impact of putting off care has yet to be confirmed for hospitals. However, many facilities, such as the Wexner Medical Center in Ohio, take action to ensure that they receive payments from insured patients prior to performing medical procedures. That's apparently because many patients are unaware that their out-of-pocket costs could be $5,000 or more, executives say.

Gallup suggests the lack of price transparency also may play a role in patients putting off care. "Variation in the pricing for medical treatments, not to mention differences in how much insurance plans cover, could be confusing Americans or making them fear a needed treatment is too expensive," Gallup said in its poll. "And while the costs of medical procedures aren't rising as rapidly as they once were, it is still too early to tell if that is an effect of the Affordable Care Act and how prices may change in the future."

To learn more:
- check out the Gallup poll