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As healthcare spending and costs rise, Many Americans are going without necessary medical care

While $3.3 trillion was spent on healthcare in the U.S. in 2016, the poll found three-quarters of Americans don't think they get good value.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

About 40 percent of Americans reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment, and 44 percent said they didn't go to a doctor when they were sick or injured in the last year because of cost, according to a new national poll from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute.

The survey of more than 1,300 adults offers some insight into how Americans face the costs of healthcare and how those expenses affect their medical decisions and personal finances. 

While $3.3 trillion was spent on healthcare in the U.S. in 2016 -- 17.9 percent of gross domestic product -- the poll found three-quarters of Americans don't think they get good value for what the country spends on healthcare.

About 30 percent of the respondents said they had to choose between paying for medical bills or basic necessities like food, heating or housing over the past year. 

But people say they're not only facing tough choices; they're scared. More people fear the medical bills that come with a serious illness than fear the illness itself (40 percent vs. 33 percent). Those who reported skipping a recommended test or treatment were about two times more likely to fear getting sick (47 vs. 24 percent) and to fear the costs of care (60 vs. 27 percent).

And a number of Americans are not only delaying recommended care, such as tests, treatments and doctor visits. They're going without those things altogether. About one in three respondents said they did not fill a prescription, or took less than the prescribed dose, to save money. Dental care also suffered. Nearly half said they went without a routine cleaning or checkup in the last year, and 39 percent say they did not go to the dentist when they needed treatment.

More than half of the respondents reported serious financial consequences due to the costs of healthcare; 36 percent say they've had to use up all or most of their savings, 32 percent reported borrowing money or increasing credit card debt, and 41 percent said they decreased contributions to a savings plan because of healthcare expenses.

Some healthcare bills came as a surprise to many Americans. More than half of respondents said they received a medical bill for something they thought was covered by their health insurance, and a similar proportion reported receiving a medical bill that was higher than they expected. What's more, great than a quarter of respondents reported having a medical bill turned over to a collection agency within the past year.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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