While politicians battle over whether to dump Obamacare in favor of a “Trumpcare” replacement, the country is in the grips of a bad case of health care insecurity.
One quarter of Americans say either they or someone in their family has skipped necessary medical care because of the cost, a Bankrate Money Pulse survey finds. And more than half worry about not being able to afford health insurance.
“My deductible is so high, it’s not worth it to go to the doctor for most things,” says Mandy Pullen, a 44-year-old single mom in Waltham, Massachusetts, who has health insurance through her job as a food service manager.
“I just tough it out,” she says.
Older millennials (ages 27-36) are most likely to forgo care due to cost, the survey shows. About 1 in 3 Americans in that age group say they’ve chosen not to seek needed medical attention because they couldn’t afford it.
Even when money is tight, you should save some cash in an emergency fund so you can take care of your physical health without jeopardizing your financial health.
A time of health care anxiety
Bankrate’s survey findings come amid rising health care costs, double-digit jumps in some health insurance premiums, particularly for Obamacare plans, and increasing insurance deductibles.
“I have been surprised by how expensive things can be even when you have insurance,” says 26-year-old Elizabeth Rene, a communications professional in Washington, D.C. “Things like urgent care. I’ve been able to pay out of pocket, but I thought insurance would cover more of it.”
In the survey, 56 percent say they’re either very or somewhat worried that they might not have affordable health coverage in the future. Note, that’s about the same level of concern we found when we asked the same question in August 2014, nearly a year after the opening of the health insurance exchanges created under former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The latest poll follows U.S. House passage of a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the House legislation would bring down overall insurance premiums through plans that provide fewer benefits, but it would leave tens of millions more Americans uninsured and raise costs substantially for sick people.
The survey results reflect “a lot of uncertainty in the air,” says Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Fear of what may lie ahead
“With the proposed changes coming up, I’m worried about pricing,” says Victoria Ward, a 24-year-old Maryland resident who gets benefits through her job at a public relations firm. “I don’t want to be paying more.”
That fear of the unknown is understandable, says Tevi Troy, CEO of the American Health Policy Institute. But, he says coverage isn’t likely to change much for the estimated 177 million Americans who get health insurance through work. Employers are likely to continue providing affordable health care because it helps with recruitment, retention and employee morale — factors unrelated to any changes in government policy.
The poll found that Republicans are far less concerned about future changes than those of other political persuasions. Fifty-four percent of respondents who identify themselves as Republicans say they’re not worried about having affordable health insurance in the future, compared just to 10 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents.
Bankrate’s Money Pulse survey was conducted May 18-21, 2017 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International with a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.