KFF poll: Half of US adults avoided care in the past year due to costs

Healthcare costs are the most unaffordable expense among Americans, and half of adults avoided care in the past year due to cost, according to a new poll.

Among expenses that included rent or mortgage, gas or transport, utilities and food, a higher share of adults (46%) reported difficulty affording out-of-pocket costs not covered by their health insurance, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found. The same share also reported difficulty affording dental care, and one-third reported that about hearing or vision care. 

Meanwhile, a quarter reported difficulty affording prescription drugs. Dental care is the most common service to be delayed or skipped due to cost, followed by vision, visits to the doctor and mental health care. 

Nearly a third reported failing to take their medicines as prescribed in the past 12 months because of prohibitive costs.

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Substantial shares of adults older than 65 report difficulty paying for various aspects of healthcare, especially services not generally covered by Medicare such as hearing services, dental and prescription drug costs.

High healthcare costs have a larger impact on uninsured adults, Black and Hispanic adults and those with lower incomes. About 6 in 10 Black and Hispanic adults (58% each) report delaying or skipping at least one type of medical care in the past year due to cost, compared to half (49%) of white adults. More than 60% of low-income households reported the same, compared to less than a third of those in higher-income households. Households with chronic conditions also reported significantly more impact from medical bills than those without. 

Difficulty paying medical bills can have significant consequences for U.S. families. In March 2019, about one-fourth of U.S. adults (26%) reported that they or a household member have had problems paying medical bills in the past year, and about half of this group (12% of all adults) said the bills had a major impact on their family.