Consumers Delaying Medical Care Cite Inflation and Rising Costs as Main Reasons 

By Consumers for Quality Care, on March 15, 2023

Consumers Delaying Medical Care Cite Inflation and Rising Costs as Main Reasons 

More consumers than ever are delaying medical treatment because of high health care costs, according to a recent Gallup poll reported in The New York Times, which found that 38 percent of Americans delayed care in 2022 due to cost. That’s the highest rate reported since Gallup began tracking these data over two decades ago and a full 12 percent increase from 2021 to 2022.

Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, stated, “We are starting to see some individuals who are putting off some care, especially preventive care, due to the costs.” She continued by saying that “the health issue is no longer the priority” for consumers who are choosing between doctor’s appointments or paying for necessities like rent and food. 

As inflation and the cost of health care continue to rise, consumers’ incomes are not rising fast enough to keep up. This is straining consumers’ budgets, causing them to take measures into their own hands by postponing elective procedures, for example, or rationing medication to make it last longer.  

Dr. Jay Bhatt, the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, stated, “This is about trade-offs that people have to think about that are really hard.”

Affordable medical care is increasingly harder to come by. A study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that nearly 3 in 10 consumers with employer-based coverage are underinsured and would have difficulty meeting their high deductible for their insurance plan before coverage would kick in. Additionally, the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency threatens many currently on Medicaid, as they may lose coverage and may not be able to afford health insurance on their own.

Sean Duffy, the co-founder and chief executive of Omada Health, stated, “2024 is the reckoning, unfortunately,” as hospitals will begin charging more for treatment to make up for financial losses they experienced last year.   

These findings are consistent with research conducted last year by CQC, which found that 60 percent of consumers have skipped or delayed medical care because of concerns about out-of-pocket expenses.

Patients should never have to defer medical care for fear of financial ruin. Policymakers must work to fix the health care system to ensure all consumers can access the care they require.