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More Than Three in 10 in U.S. Put Off Treatment Due to Cost

More Than Three in 10 in U.S. Put Off Treatment Due to Cost

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thirty-two percent of Americans say they have had to put off medical care for themselves or their family in the past year due to the cost -- the highest percentage since Gallup started tracking this annually in 2001. The percentage reporting they are putting treatment off is up significantly from the 19% found 12 years ago.

Trend: Within the last 12 months, have you or a member of your family put off any sort of medical treatment because of the cost you would have to pay?

More than half of those with no health insurance say they have had to put off care (55%), as have 30% of those with private health insurance -- while 21% of those who have Medicare or Medicaid say the same. This mirrors the divide in satisfaction with healthcare costs that Gallup found in the same Nov. 15-18 survey -- a new high of 76% of Medicare/Medicaid recipients are satisfied, versus 57% of privately insured Americans. This gap of 19 percentage points is a drastic change from the early 2000s, when both groups were about equally satisfied.

More Americans have had to put off treatment for a serious condition than for a non-serious one -- 19% vs. 13% -- which has generally been the case in past years. The percentages putting off treatment for a serious or non-serious condition have nearly doubled since 2001.

Trend: When you put off this medical treatment, was it for a condition or illness that was -- very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious, or not at all serious? Combined question results

Bottom Line

The cost of healthcare is a longstanding issue in the United States. Americans since 2003 have named it first or second on a list of the most urgent health problems facing the country. The rising costs can put personal as well as public health at risk if Americans forgo treatment they need because they feel they cannot afford it. Indeed, Gallup finds more than three in 10 Americans are putting off needed care, even for serious medical issues.

As more Americans gain access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, it is possible that fewer will struggle to afford care. This alone, though, won't solve the problem. Even 30% of those with private insurance and 21% of those with Medicare or Medicaid have also had to put off care due to cost.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 15-18, 2012, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cellphone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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