Nearly 4 in 10 Americans say inflation affecting their health care

Patients are either skipping care completely, cutting costs elsewhere, or borrowing money to pay for health care

A West Health/Gallup poll found that nearly four in 10 Americans in the last six months have delayed or skipped health care treatments, trim regular household expenses, or borrow money, because of rising health care costs. Extrapolated across the entire population, that means 98 million adults are having to figure out how to afford health care.

While half of adults in households earning less than $48,000 per year report cutting spending, the effects also extend to more influential households. For those earning at least $180,000, 19% said they have pared back spending to pay for health care.

According to the report, women under 50 are disproportionately being compelled to cut back on health care with 36% reporting they have done so, compared to 22% of men. having done so, compared with 22% of men.

Overall, 26% of adults report delaying or avoiding medical care or purchasing prescription drugs in the prior six months due to higher health care prices. This rises to 43% among adults in lower-income households (those making less than $24,000 annually).

For those cutting costs, health care is usually on the chopping block with other expensed. The report found:

  • Of those who cut back on utilities, 59% also cut back on medical care and medicine.
  • Of those who skipped a meal, 71% also cut back on medical care and medicine.
  • Of those who borrowed money, 60% also cut back on medical care and medicine.
  • Of those who drove less, 55% also cut back on medical care and medicine.

The effect of inflation exacerbates an already significant issue for millions of Americans struggling to pay for health care and medicine. Prior findings from the 2021 West Health-Gallup Healthcare Study showed that an estimated 18% of adults, or about 46 million people, could not afford needed care if they required it today and that 7% of Americans have been unable to pay for prescribed drugs in the prior three months.

Health care inflation, which stood at 4.5% in June, is lagging overall inflation, which spiked to 9.1% in June, a new 40-year high primarily because of rising prices for gas, food and rent. According to the report, inflation has not yet fully hit health care prices due to prenegotiated contracts with insurers and providers for 2022, but inflation is likely to impact prices later in the year -- something that consumers may not fully appreciate given the mere 3% that cite health care as the service expected to rise in price the most in the next six months.