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High deductibles cause Americans to delay medical care

Gallup: One in three Americans have delayed treatment for themselves or a family member because of cost concerns

Americans are increasingly delaying medical care because they cannot afford it, according to a new Gallup poll.

One in three Americans have delayed medical treatment for themselves or a family member due to concerns about cost, Gallup said. That number represents a slight increase from last year's 30 percent but is the highest number in the 14 years that Gallup has posed the question. In particular, the trend of delaying care is on the rise for middle- and upper-income Americans and for those with private insurance.

The main cause, the Fiscal Times reported, is the increasing use of high-deductible health plans, which trade lower premiums for higher out-of-pocket costs. Such plans are popular with employers and are readily available on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. 

The bronze-level policies on Healthcare.gov come with an average deductible of $5,181 for individual plans--nearly four times higher than the Internal Revenue Service's $1,300 benchmark for a high deductible plan, the Fiscal Times reported. These high-deductible plans can push the insured to seek care from community health centers and other reduced-cost clinics that traditionally have cared for the uninsured, the Chicago Tribune noted.  

Nearly 7 million Americans signed up for health insurance through Healthcare.gov, and millions more received coverage through Medicaid expansion, state insurance exchanges and expanded eligibility through their parents' insurance plans.

However, because out-of-pocket healthcare costs are so high, Gallup said, "there has been no downturn in the percentage who say they have had to put off needed medical treatment because of cost."

If there's a silver lining, the percentage of low-income Americans delaying medical treatment has dropped. Thirty-five percent of Americans with an annual income under $30,000 have or will put off treatment this year, Gallup said, a decrease from 43 percent in 2013. In addition, the percentage of Americans on Medicare and Medicaid who delayed treatment due to high costs held steady, at 22 percent.

For more:
- read the report on the Gallup poll
- read the Fiscal Times article
- read the Chicago Tribune article

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