30% of adults delay medical treatment for financial reasons

Thirty percent of adults say either they or a relative delayed medical treatment for financial reasons in the past year, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll found that 59 percent of the uninsured have delayed treatment, making them more than twice as likely to put it off as Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries, or people with private insurance. Twenty-two percent of Medicaid and Medicare patients reported that they had put off care, and 25 percent of adults with private insurance said the same.

Lower-income Americans and Americans in the 18-to-29 age bracket, both of whom are among the demographics least likely to have insurance, were also significantly more likely to have delayed treatment, according to the poll. Americans are more likely to delay treatment for a serious condition than a minor one, a trend the poll says has remained generally consistent since the survey began in 2001. More and more Americans have put off treatment for serious conditions since then, due to increases in cost of care, but the percentage putting off treatment for minor conditions has barely changed at all, according to the poll.

Cost was named the most urgent health problem in the nation in an earlier poll. A higher percentage of Americans put off treatment due to cost than did so in the early 2000s, which Gallup speculates may be due in part to high-deductible health plans increasing out-of-pocket costs.

"Although successful implementation of provisions of the Affordable Care Act may result in fewer Americans feeling they cannot afford treatment, the possible uptick in the number of patients seeking medical treatment may put additional strain on the healthcare system, creating new problems," the poll states.

An editorial published this October in the New England Journal of Medicine urged doctors to discuss potential out-of-pocket costs with patients before making treatment decisions, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the poll