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Health & Medicine

Some are Making Tough Trade-offs Due to Rising Healthcare Costs

— November 24, 2023

Rising medical costs mean Americans are having to make tough decisions.

Amid escalating healthcare costs, Americans are facing difficult trade-offs. Their purchasing power parity has reduced considerably due to the rising interest rates and the inflation it is stirring. A recent survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation dedicated to promoting equitable access to healthcare, has brought forth a grim reality facing working-age Americans when it comes to affording anything, let alone medical care.

The survey, which casts light on the ever-mounting healthcare-related financial burdens, paints a concerning picture of the economic struggles many individuals and families endure to maintain their health and financial stability.

The Commonwealth Fund’s findings, gathered through a telephone and online survey of more than 7,800 adults between April 18 and July 31, reveal that 1 in 2 working-age Americans grapples with the challenge of paying for healthcare.

Additionally, a staggering 1 in 3 Americans finds themselves indebted to hospitals, doctors, or other healthcare providers and making tough trade-offs. These statistics shed light on the dire financial straits facing a substantial portion of the U.S. population, even as the country grapples with an array of healthcare coverage options.

Some are Making Tough Trade-offs Due to Rising Healthcare Costs
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The report underscores the profound economic and health implications of this issue. Among the survey’s key findings are:

  1. Skipped or Delayed Care: Almost 2 in 5 respondents admitted to skipping or delaying medical care, or even foregoing prescription medication, as their biggest trade-offs over the past year due to unaffordability. This statistic is particularly alarming, as it transcends those with and without health insurance coverage. Even those with workplace or other insurance often find themselves grappling with medical bills that strain their budgets.
  2. Affordability Challenge: Approximately 6 in 10 individuals who obtained their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, brokers, or other private insurance avenues expressed that affording healthcare costs was either “very” or “somewhat difficult.” This perception was not limited to private insurance holders; even beneficiaries of government-sponsored healthcare options like Medicare and Medicaid, along with those covered through their workplace, reported financial struggles.
  3. Medical Debt Prevalence: Alarmingly, 1 in 3 adult Americans reported being in debt to healthcare providers, including doctors, dentists, hospitals, home healthcare providers, nursing homes, and others. Importantly, this debt often stems from routine care for chronic conditions, nearly as frequently as from medical emergencies or recent diagnoses.
  4. Magnitude of Debt: Among those indebted, almost half owed $2,000 or more, signifying the substantial financial impact of healthcare expenses. While close to two-thirds of adults with medical debt paid their providers directly, a significant portion of past-due bills ended up in the hands of collection agencies.

In 2021, consumers in the United States were burdened with an estimated $88 billion in medical debt, making it the largest category of consumer debt. The repercussions of such debt, especially trade-offs, can be profound, extending to people’s ability to secure housing or finance significant purchases, as unpaid medical bills frequently appear on consumer credit reports.

In 2023, as inflation rises, so are medical costs. Surveys have shown that over 67% Americans reported in Q3 of 2023 that paying their medical bills has become difficult due to inflation. Compared to 2022, only 57% reported this and in 2021, this percentage stood at 53%.

The economic and emotional toll of healthcare costs is a mounting crisis, transcending insurance coverage. It poses a clear and present danger to the health and prosperity of Americans, prompting the need for comprehensive solutions to alleviate the mounting burdens placed on individuals and families as they grapple with the intersection of health and finance.


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