Half of Americans put off going to the doctor or dentists for a procedure they need because they’re afraid of the bill, new research suggests.
But the strategy might not pay off.
If a problem worsens and you end up in the ER for it, the average emergency medical bill exceeds $12,000, the new survey, conducted by OnePoll, found.
And worse yet, most Americans don’t have any money set aside in case of such emergencies.
The new study paints a bleak picture of Americans caught between high medical bills and low incomes to put away for a rainy day.
Standard medical and dental care is so expensive in the US that one in two Americans puts off procedures they know they need, raising risks that they’ll need emergency care, which costs an average of $12,000 before insurance, a new survey found
Being well in the US is expensive.
Health care is a $4 trillion industry in the US, a value equivalent to some of the world’s largest economies.
The average American spent $4,928 on health care in 2017, whether or not they could afford it.
And being unable to afford medical or dental care – or a at least afraid of being unable to afford it – drives half of all Americans to simply put of getting the procedures, diagnostics and exams they need, the new research found.
To doctors’ minds, it’s about the worst thing you can do for your health.
Preventive measures and early treatment are the tried and true ways to avoid chronic disease and early death, but for many, that’s just not financially possible.
And delaying treatment increases the chances of winding up taking an emergency trip to the hospital or dentists.
According to the survey of 2,000 Americans, commissioned by DentalPlans.com, many people aren’t setting aside money in cases of these kinds of crisis events, either.
Just under half of Americans (47 percent) said they didn’t have any savings at the ready to cover unexpected medical or dental costs.
But that proportion went up to 62 percent among people over 50, who are at greater risk of health problems in general.
The most common emergency procedure, according to the new study, was actually a dental one, for a chipped tooth, accounting for 28 percent of all hasty health fixes, and lost teeth were the culprits of another quarter of emergencies.
Cuts that needed stitches, broken bones and trauma were the next most common reasons for emergency medical attention.
However simple or major the emergency issue was, the bill was high.
Among those who had had emergency procedures, the average cost before insurance was $12,126, the new study revealed.
And most people were still stuck with nearly half (49 percent) of the bill.
Paying off roughly $6,000 of medical or dental debt took an average of 2.4 years.
Even over time, those payment installments would hardly be cheap, at over $200 a month, for 29 months.
Facing such steep costs, it’s no wonder that 34 percent of Americans put off or fled their bills altogether.
One third of people who did eventually pay them put themselves on a strict budget or as long as it took.
But 22 percent had to apply money from family or friends (or even from strangers through sites like GoFundMe) to covering their medical debt, 18 percent had to tack on another job to their work schedules and 17 percent resorted to selling off their personal possessions.
These measures ought to encourage Americans to put aside money for emergencies, but about half (48 percent) said they simply didn’t have enough money to begin with to save up for emergencies.
Americans face another even steeper challenge, too.
A growing number of hospitals and health care businesses have merged and consolidated, arguing that having a single unified network of star-to-finish care will make health care more efficient and cheaper for patients.
Policy experts like Dr Richard Scheffler of University of California, Berkeley, say that’s not so, never has been and likely never will be, however.
‘This is not a new story,’ he says.
‘Prices are high in US compared to most other countries. There are many reasons.
‘Less competition due to market consolidation is an important one.’
In other words, one hospital can’t undercut others by charging less of a premium on their services. So, essentially, Americans are stuck paying whatever is asked of them by whatever monolithic facility end up at.