Costs Keeping Healthcare Out of Reach

March 25, 2002 ( - A growing number of Americans say that getting health care they want is getting harder - mostly because of cost, according to a recent study.

According to the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Center for Studying Health System Change, 5.8% of the respondents say they had gone without needed care in the past year, up from 5.2% in 1997 – a time during which healthcare costs are rising, and a growing number of employers are asking employees to shoulder a larger share of the costs.

Denied or Delayed

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The report noted that roughly one in seven Americans surveyed say they had trouble getting medical care – or had to delay access to that care last year – some 41 million, in all.  According to Reuters, 16 million were unable to get care when needed last year, while another 26 million delayed care.  That latter number has been consistent over the life of the study.

Of those who could not get care or delayed it, 62% cited cost as the reason – a factor that loomed largest for 90% or more of the uninsured and for half of those with insurance.  Of the remainder, 13.2% said that they could not get care or delayed it because their plan would not pay for a service and another 13% said that a doctor or hospital would not accept their insurance.

Uninsured Issues

Not surprisingly, obtaining care was most difficult for the uninsured, or those with low incomes or in poor health. Last year the uninsured were three times as likely to not get care and slightly more than 15% of the uninsured delayed care, compared with just 8.6% of the insured.

More than a quarter of those who were uninsured and in poor health said that they could not get needed care.

Nearly a third (32.6%) of the survey respondents noted that they could not get an appointment soon enough in 2001 compared with 22.9% in 1997.

The study results were based on a telephone survey of a representative 60,000 Americans about access to healthcare, results that have been extrapolated to the US population in general in each of the last several years since late 1996.