Health Care a Victim of Sick Economy
Poll Shows Nation's Financial Troubles Force Many People to Cut Back on Medical Care
WebMD News Archive
April 29, 2008 -- Economic woes and rising health care costs are leading
many Americans into financial disaster, prompting more and more people to forgo
necessary medical treatments -- and even marry to get health insurance.
A Kaiser Family Foundation telephone poll of 2,003 adults shows that
Americans rank health care as one of their top personal economic concerns.
Nearly three out of 10 of those surveyed said they have had considerable
trouble trying to pay for medical care or health insurance, and they blame the
problem on the struggling economy.
The April poll was conducted to learn how Americans are dealing with the
increasing costs of health care. Among the findings:
- 17% said they used all of most of their savings to foot the bill for
- One in five reported being contacted by a collections agency because of
medical bills over the last 5 years.
- Medical bills forced 3% of those polled to declare bankruptcy.
Health care costs appeared to greatly influence family budgets, with some
families having to choose between paying medical bills and buying items such as
food. Twelve percent of those polled said that they were unable to pay for
basic necessities such as food, heat, or housing as a result of medical
"Many people view health and the economy as separate issues, but the
cost of health care is a significant pocketbook issue for many families and
paying for health care has become a key dimension of the public's economic
concerns," Kaiser President and CEO Drew E. Altman says in a news
Pricey health care also resulted in a significant number of Americans
forgoing or delaying medical treatments. For example:
- 29% said someone in their household put off or postponed getting needed
- 24% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment -- up from 17% in
- 23% did not fill a prescription.
- 19% cut pills in half or skipped doses of medicine to save money.
The poll also showed that people tend to stay with -- or join -- employers
who offered health benefits. Nearly a quarter (23%) of those surveyed said that
within the past year they or someone in their household took a new job or
remained in their current position because the health benefits were better.
Some people even said "I do" to get better health insurance. Seven
percent of those polled said they or someone in their household took a walk
down the aisle so they could have access to their spouse's health care plan.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3%.