With insured patients' out-of-pocket costs on the rise, nearly one-fifth of privately insured Americans admittedly avoided seeing a doctor for an illness or injury over the past year, according to new research conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Although researchers found that most privately insured Americans did not report major financial concerns due to health expenses, the survey of 1,004 privately insured adults age 18-64, including 267 with high-deductible health plans (HDHP), shed light on distress being experienced by a significant minority. Among the findings:
One in eight privately insured Americans--or more than 16 million people--say they face major financial hardships such as going without food or using up all of their savings as a result of medical bills.
- Twenty-five percent lack confidence in their ability to pay for a major unexpected medical expense.
- Among respondents who have changed health plans, 41 percent say their costs went up, 18 percent of whom report they are getting higher-quality care in exchange for those higher costs.
- More than half (52 percent) of respondents said they'd rather pay higher premiums/lower out-of-pocket costs than the other way around (40 percent).
- HDHP patients are more likely than those carrying traditional health insurance to decrease their contributions to savings or retirement accounts to pay for health expenses.
- About half of those surveyed said they had a strong understanding of what their plans cover.
- Despite the Affordable Care Act's requirement that insurers cover preventive care, 24 percent of respondents went without preventive care at least once in the last year.
Thus, the last two items on the list point to a need for better education for insureds, according to an article from the Associated Press. "People need to understand how to use their healthcare," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told the AP. "We need to spend time educating people."