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Record High in U.S. Put Off Medical Care Due to Cost in 2022

Record High in U.S. Put Off Medical Care Due to Cost in 2022

Story Highlights

  • 38% say they put off treatment, up 12 percentage points from 2021
  • 27% say medical treatment was for a very or somewhat serious condition
  • Lower-income, younger adults, women most likely to report delaying care

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The percentage of Americans reporting they or a family member postponed medical treatment in 2022 due to cost rose 12 points in one year, to 38%, the highest in Gallup’s 22-year trend.


Each year since 2001, Gallup has tracked Americans’ self-reports of delaying medical care in the past 12 months due to cost. The latest reading, from Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll conducted Nov. 9-Dec. 2, is the highest by five points and marks the sharpest year-over-year increase to date.

This change came amid the highest inflation rate in the U.S. in more than 40 years, which made 2022 a challenging year for many Americans. A majority of U.S. adults have said inflation is creating at least a moderate hardship for them. The public continues to view the state of the U.S. economy negatively, and Americans were more likely to name inflation as the most important problem facing the U.S. in 2022 than at any time since 1984.

The latest double-digit increase in delaying medical treatment came on the heels of two consecutive 26% readings during the COVID-19 pandemic that were the lowest since 2004. The previous high point in the trend was 33% in 2014 and 2019. An average 29% of U.S. adults reported putting off medical treatment because of cost between 2001 and 2021.

Americans were more than twice as likely to report the delayed treatment in their family was for a serious rather than a nonserious condition in 2022. In all, 27% said the treatment was for a “very” or “somewhat” serious condition or illness, while 11% said it was “not very” or “not at all” serious. Since 2004, more U.S. adults have said the medical care needed was for a serious than nonserious condition, but the 16-point gap in the perceived seriousness of forgone treatment in 2022 is the second largest on record to a 17-point gap in 2019.


Delayed Care Reports Differ by Income, Age, Gender

Lower-income adults, younger adults and women in the U.S. have consistently been more likely than their counterparts to say they or a family member have delayed care for a serious medical condition.

In 2022, Americans with an annual household income under $40,000 were nearly twice as likely as those with an income of $100,000 or more to say someone in their family delayed medical care for a serious condition (34% vs. 18%, respectively). Those with an income between $40,000 and less than $100,000 were similar to those in the lowest income group when it comes to postponing care, with 29% doing so.

Reports of putting off care for a serious condition are up 12 points among lower-income U.S. adults, up 11 points among those in the middle-income group and up seven points among those with a higher income. The latest readings for the middle- and upper-income groups are the highest on record or tied with the highest.


There were also significant age differences in reports of postponing care in 2022, with young and middle-aged adults much more likely than older adults to say they or a family member delayed medical care for a serious condition. This is likely due to the fact that Americans aged 65 and older are covered by Medicare.

A new high of 35% of adults aged 18 to 49 said they or someone in their family put off care, while 25% of those aged 50 to 64 and 13% of those aged 65 and older said the same. The readings are up 12 points among those younger than 50, up 10 points among 50- to 64-year-olds, and up six points among those aged 65 and older.


Looking at gender differences in 2022, 32% of women and 20% of men reported putting off medical treatment, representing a 12-point increase from 2021 for women and a five-point increase for men. The resulting 12-point gender gap is well above the seven-point average gender gap since 2001.


Bottom Line

With high inflation creating moderate to severe hardship for a majority of Americans in the second half of 2022, their reports of delaying medical care in general due to cost -- as well as delaying care for a serious condition -- rose sharply to new highs. Young adults, those in lower-income households and women were especially likely to say they or a family member had put off medical care.

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