112 Million Americans Struggle to Pay for Health Care: Report
Health Care

112 Million Americans Struggle to Pay for Health Care: Report


A staggering number of Americans are finding it hard to pay for health care, according to a new report from Gallup and West Health, and the great majority don’t think the services they receive are worth the cost.

In a pair of surveys of more than 6,600 people conducted last fall, 44% of adult respondents – representing about 112 million people – said they are struggling to pay for health care. More than twice that number, or 93%, said what they pay isn’t worth it.

“Bottom line – Americans are increasingly getting priced out of the system and many of those who can still afford to pay don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth relative to the cost,” West Health president Tim Lash said in a press release. “We must begin to change this trajectory with smarter policies that put patients over profits.”

Pain points: The surveys asked respondents if they had been unable to pay for health care or skipped a prescription medicine due to cost in the last three months, or if they would be unable to afford medical care if they needed it right away. Those who said no to all questions – 56% of respondents – were classified as “cost secure,” while those who said met one of the conditions (36%) were classified as “cost insecure.” Respondents who met at least two conditions (8%) were classified as “cost desperate.” 

Not surprisingly, the odds of being “cost desperate” rise as income falls. Only 3% of respondents earning more than $90,000 a year were classified as such, while 13% of those earning less than $48,000 met those conditions.

The survey also shows that many people make sacrifices to afford health care. More than a third of cost desperate adults said they had cut back on utilities to pay for health care, while about half said they had cut back on food purchases.

A lack of value: Only 5% of respondents said they think the American health care system delivers high value relative to its cost, both generally and for their household. Half said the system delivers inconsistent value, while the remaining 45% said it delivers poor value for them and their fellow citizens.

The bottom line: “The U.S. spent $3.8 trillion on healthcare in 2019, accounting for 17.7% of gross domestic product,” Gallup’s Dan Witter writes, adding that per capita spending of $10,948 is far higher than in any other developed country. “The notion among some that high healthcare costs are justified by the quality of care received is unsupported by these public opinion data. Nearly three-quarters of adults do not believe that the quality of their care is worth the cost, a sentiment that is consistent across demographic subgroups including age, gender, race, ethnicity and household income.”