A growing number of Americans are delaying important medical care because of the high cost of treatment, a new survey shows.
In 2022, 38% of Americans said they or a family member skipped or delayed medical care, amid the highest rate of inflation in more than 40 years, according to an annual health care poll from Gallup.
The jump reflects an increase of 12 percentage points compared to 2021 and marks the highest year-to-year increase in Americans delaying health care, including evaluations, treatments and procedures, since Gallup began conducting the poll in 2001.
The previous high was 33% of Americans in both 2014 and 2019 who said they avoided medical care because of cost. Over the previous two years, 26% of Americans — the lowest share since 2004 — said they delayed seeking care for either themselves or a family member.
Worryingly, 27% of respondents said the treatments they skipped were for "very" or "somewhat" serious conditions or illnesses. Eleven percent said they neglected to pursue care for non-serious illnesses.
Foregoing essential medical care carries serious consequences and can compound costs of treatment down the road.
"It's really important to understand that [when] there is a health concern that's ongoing, particularly when you think it might be serious, it's very unlikely that it's going to go away," pediatric airway surgeon Dr. Susannah Hills told CBS News.
When patients skip preventive care and screenings, they risk allowing non-serious conditions to worsen.
"It might need to be dealt with, unfortunately, in the emergency room, or in a scenario where you can no longer work and you can't provide for your family or take care of those kids and you're going to be forced to take care of your own health concern," Dr. Hills added.
Lower-income adults, as well as younger adults and women, were more likely than their counterparts to delay care for serious medical conditions. Americans with household incomes under $40,000 were almost twice as likely as those making $100,000 or more to report that they or a family member delayed care for a serious medical condition.
Hill urged the public not to skip treatments, but instead to seek out free and low-cost health care options.
"So you, if you can, get ahead of it and address issues or go to that preventive care visit so that you can be screened for those important things that can really cause serious health issues," she said.
Parents of school-aged children can ask their school's social worker for a list of free health care clinics or apply for Medicaid, if they qualify, she said.
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