Income Disparities More Pronounced, Care Deferment More Common in America Than in Other Wealthy Nations

By Consumers for Quality Care, on December 13, 2023

Income Disparities More Pronounced, Care Deferment More Common in America Than in Other Wealthy Nations

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey ranked nine wealthy countries by various measures of health care access. The survey, according to reports by Fierce Healthcare, highlighted significant shortcomings in Americans’ access to care, including disparities between consumers of differing income levels.

Patients skipped medical care because of cost considerations, according to the survey. This was true at every level of income. In total, 46 percent of lower-income Americans and 29 percent of higher-income individuals cited cost-related reasons for skipping or delaying medical care. 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.

Americans also reported challenges paying medical bills within the past year, with 44 percent reporting difficulties, a figure much higher than those of other countries surveyed. The survey found that, in addition to other things, broad limits on out-of-pocket spending in the U.S. contributed to America’s uniquely high cost of health care. The survey also stressed that although income disparities in health care affordability were widespread across the globe, America’s income disparities were more pronounced than those observed in other countries.

This survey is part of a series showing that, with respect to health care quality and affordability, America is struggling. These findings align with a recent report which found that a significant portion of working-age Americans carry medical debt and struggle to afford health care even if they have insurance.

Patients should never have to defer medical care because of the complexities of our health care system. Nor should they be made to fear that seeking care may ruin them financially. Policymakers must fix the health care system to ensure all consumers can access the care they need.