Americans Fear Medical Costs More Than Serious Illness, Survey Finds

The Center for Biosimilars Staff

Forty percent of respondents had skipped a medical test or treatment to save on costs, and 32% had skipped filling a prescription (or took less medication than prescribed) because of costs.

NORC at the University of Chicago, together with the West Health Institute, released the results of a survey of American adults concerning their attitudes toward healthcare. They found that “healthcare costs have a significant and enduring impact on financial health.”

The survey was conducted among 1302 adults—providing a sample coverage of approximately 97% of US households—between February 15 and February 19 of this year using the AmeriSpeak Panel.

In the past year:

  • 36% of respondents said that they had depleted their savings because of healthcare costs
  • 32% had taken on credit card debt or had borrowed money to pay for care
  • 30% felt that they had to decide between medical care and basic necessities
  • 41% said they could not add money to their savings because of medical bills
  • 25% had a medical bill referred to a collection agency

Other Americans reported going without care in order to save money, 40% of respondents had skipped a medical test or treatment to save on costs, and 32% had skipped filling a prescription (or took less medication than prescribed) because of costs.

Among those who had skipped a test or treatment, 60% said that they were afraid of the cost of a serious illness, while only 47% said that they were afraid of getting a serious illness itself. According to the report’s authors, these fears about the cost of treatment are often based on experience; more respondents who had negative financial impacts from previous healthcare costs (56%) feared paying for care than those who had not had previous experiences with financial hardship from healthcare costs (23%).

“It’s shocking and unacceptable that medical bills strike more fear in the hearts of Americans than serious illness,” said Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of West Health Institute, in a statement. “Americans are paying more for healthcare than they should and getting less than they deserve. Bold action is required to lower the sky-high cost of healthcare. The very health and wealth of our nation and its people are at stake.”