According to recent data, the U.S. spends significantly more on healthcare than most countries, but this doesn’t mean the nation has better healthcare results. It is estimated that spending on healthcare in 2021 reached a whopping $4.3 trillion, averaging $12,900 per person. In comparison, other prosperous countries only spend about half this amount per person. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the movement in rising healthcare costs in the U.S., such spending had been ever-increasing prior to the pandemic. For example, healthcare costs have increased from 5% in 1960 to 18% in 2021, and is expected to keep rising in 2023 and onward.

New CivicScience findings highlight how healthcare costs are preventing people from seeking care in 2023 – including emergency care – and how many are still experiencing difficulties in scheduling care seen over the pandemic. 

Avoiding Doctor’s Visits 

Healthcare costs consistently rank as a top financial concern for numerous people. CivicScience data continually tracks how the high cost of healthcare is a significant burden on thousands of U.S. households. This has proven true with the latest findings from March, revealing that 23% of U.S. adults say there was a time they needed medical attention within the past 12 months, but could not see a doctor because of the costs involved (n=4,441 and excludes those who answered ‘not sure’). 

Most importantly, a close look at U.S. demographics suggests that women, Black Americans, and young adults are the most likely to forgo doctor’s visits due to high healthcare costs. Cumulative data for Q1 show that:

  • 27% of women say they had forgone seeing a doctor in the past 12 months, while only 22% of men said the same;  
  • 35% of Black Americans say they put off seeing a doctor in the past 12 months, compared to 22% of White Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans;
  • 38% of those aged 18-24 and 34% of those aged 25-34 say they avoided seeing a doctor in the past 12 months. This represents a stark contrast between young adults and those 55 years or older, of whom only 14% put off obtaining medical care from a physician. 

Health Insurance Matters

Without universal healthcare in the U.S., healthcare costs are typically covered by various private and public insurance programs. Recent statistics have revealed that in 2021, 300 million individuals had some kind of insurance in the U.S., an increase from 257 million people in 2010. However, this means that about 30 million Americans still need health insurance. 

CivicScience data show startling connections between health insurance coverage and those who put off receiving medical attention in the past 12 months due to cost, with the uninsured being the most affected:

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of uninsured adults put off going to a doctor. 
  • More than one-quarter (28%) of those who receive health insurance from an employer chose not to seek medical care.  
  • One-fifth (20%) of people who pay for health insurance themselves avoided a doctor’s visit.

Avoiding ER Visits

Alarmingly, March data also show that more than a quarter of U.S. adults (28%) say they or someone in their household avoided going to an emergency room in the last 12 months due to costs, when they otherwise would have gone (n=3,268 and excludes those who answered ‘not sure’). 

Those impacted include:

  • 56% of uninsured adults, 35% of those who pay for their own health insurance coverage, and 32% of those with employer-sponsored coverage;
  • 31% of women, compared to 25% of men;
  • Nearly 40% of adults under age 35, compared to 29% of those aged 35-54 and 19% of those aged 55+.

Additionally, well over a third of Black and Hispanic Americans avoided ER visits because of medical costs, while just a quarter of White Americans did the same. 

Delays In Scheduling Care – an Ongoing Problem

When looking at current data, it’s clear that the majority (56%) of people are not experiencing healthcare scheduling issues when trying to visit a doctor. 

Yet pandemic-era healthcare delays linger on for many. In 2022, a total of 46% of U.S. adults said they or a household member experienced difficulty scheduling a doctor’s visit over the pandemic. Today, 44% of people said they had experienced scheduling issues in the last 12 months (n=2,976). In fact, 15% reported they are currently having issues, which is up one percentage point from 2022. 

Although a majority of Americans are ready to move on from the pandemic, there are still delays in care, while numerous people are unable to get the care they need because of high healthcare costs. CivicScience will continue to monitor consumer response to rising healthcare costs and their impacts. To learn more about the impacts and how they are affecting consumer choices, get in touch.