The high cost of health care is keeping Americans from going to the doctor

Health care in the United States is expensive. So expensive, in fact, that many Americans are foregoing doctors visits because of the price.

According to a new national poll from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, roughly 40 percent of Americans say they have forgone a recommended medical test or treatment, or routine physical or other preventive health care, due to cost. Additionally, 44 percent say they didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured in the last year because of cost. About one in three respondents report not filling a prescription, or taking less than the prescribed dose in order to save money.

These results can be explained by the fact that 75 percent of the 1,302 survey respondents feel they don’t get good value for what our country spends on health care — which was $3.3 trillion in 2016, 17.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Zia Agha, M.D., chief medical officer at the West Health Institute, a nonprofit applied medical research organization based in San Diego, CA, calls these findings a “public health crisis.”

The study also found that roughly 30 percent of respondents said that over the last year they had to choose between paying for medical bills or basic necessities like food, heating, or housing. The numbers in the study get even more dire: 36 percent say they have had to use up all or most of their savings in order to pay for health care expenses. Unfortunately, more than a quarter of respondents reported having a medical bill turned over to a collection agency within the past year. All of this is occurring even with 80 percent of the respondents reporting to have at least some type of health insurance. “Americans are paying more for health care than they should and getting less than they deserve. Bold action is required to lower the sky-high cost of health care. The very health and wealth of our nation and its people are at stake,” said president and CEO of West Health Shelley Lyford.

Understandably, people report feeling fear when it comes to their health. And it’s not necessarily needles or diagnoses that are giving them fear. In fact, 40 percent of participants fear the medical bills that accompany a serious illness, while fewer, 33 percent, fear the illness itself.

There is also the dreaded fear of the unknown. Over half of respondents say they received a medical bill for something they thought was covered by their health insurance and received a medical bill that was higher than they expected. Since so much is coming out of pocket even though people have insurance, it’s not surprising that half of Americans disapprove of the way their member of Congress is addressing the high cost of health care.

Let’s hope things change soon so that saving money doesn’t come at the cost of getting sick.

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