Affordability a struggle, value lacking in health care

More Americans “priced out of the system,” survey finds.

An estimated 44% of American adults are struggling to pay for healthcare and 93% feel what they pay for is not worth the cost, according to a new poll.

The findings indicate a “cost crisis” as health care spending has surpassed $4 trillion in the United States and is expected to grow, according to nonprofit analyst West Health and the polling firm Gallup.

“These indices are tracking the healthcare cost crisis in America and its impact on everyday Americans,” Tim Lash, president of West Health, said in a news release. “Bottom line – Americans are increasingly getting priced out of the system and many of those who can still afford to pay don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth relative to the cost. We must begin to change this trajectory with smarter policies that put patients over profits.”

Healthcare indicators

West Health and Gallup created the Healthcare Affordability Index to assess the public’s ability to afford healthcare and the Healthcare Value Index to measure perceptions of quality of care relative to cost.

For the Affordability Index, the survey found 8% of respondents were considered “cost desperate,” reporting three financial challenges:

  • Unable to pay for needed medical treatment over the prior three months
  • Skipped prescribed medication due to cost over the prior three months
  • Unable to afford quality care if it was needed today

Another 36% were classified as “cost insecure,” meaning they had one or two of the affordability challenges, while 56% were “cost secure” with none of the challenges.

Among the cost desperate adults, 35% reported cutting back on utilities and half cut back on food in the last 12 months to pay for healthcare. In that group, 14% knew a friend or family member who died in the last 12 months because they skipped treatment they could not afford.

Health care value

Beyond affordability, 5% of respondents reported “high perceived value,” paying the right amount for the quality of care they receive.

Half the adult population reported “inconsistent perceived value,” paying too much or having an experience not worth the cost. Another 45% reported “poor perceived value,” paying too much for a healthcare experience not worth the cost, the news release said.

The companies developed the metrics when surveys showed the rate of Americans reporting skipping needed care due to cost tripled during 2021.

“These estimates are important resources for policymakers, researchers, and the public to evaluate and understand the burden of high healthcare costs,” Dan Witters, a senior researcher for Gallup, said in the news release. “The indices paint a comprehensive picture of why Americans are unable to keep pace with the rising costs and don’t see value in the care they are receiving.”