Confusion over health policies and out-of-pocket costs have led many people to delay seeking medical treatment.
That’s the finding of a new report by Connecticut-based SCIO Health Analytics and commissioned by Harris Poll. According to the survey, about four in 10 Americans said they had a difficult time understanding their health care plans. Questions about what the policies actually cover and how much they cost have caused many to put off treatment altogether.
About one in five, or 44 million Americans, say they’ve avoided visiting the doctor because of these cost concerns. This is serious since, as the researchers note, about half of all Americans — or 117 million — have some kind of chronic illness that requires medical attention. The survey found about 14 percent of people with a chronic illness are in the group that’s putting off treatment because of costs.
Delaying treatment could cost these people significantly more money in surgeries or expensive long-term physical therapy sessions. Americans currently spend about $277 billion treating their chronic conditions.
The survey’s findings are in line with other recent polls showing that tens of millions of Americans are rationing care because of cost. A December Gallup poll found one in three people had put off medical treatment because of cost. Likewise, a Commonwealth Fund report released last week estimated that upwards of 66 million people have reportedly self-rationed their care due to cost over the last 12 months.
Both surveys suggested that high deductible policies had much to do with the large number of people putting off care. More and more people are enrolling in high deductible plans — which have low premiums but high out of pocket costs.
But the new poll from SCIO Health Analytics suggests another reason: consumer confusion and lack of understanding of what their plans actually cover — and potential shock at higher than expected out of pocket costs.
“These findings are particularly relevant at this time as millions of Americans are once again deciding their annual health care benefit options through Open Enrollment,” said Siva Namasivayam, CEO, SCIO Health Analytics. “While Americans are spending more time researching health plans, the survey reveals a significant knowledge gap in the specifics of their health care options that may eventually lead to unnecessary risks and costs.”
The survey found that confusion surrounding cost of plans and what they cover was most common among millennials ages 18-34.
Researchers suggested that insurers make information about plans more accessible online and through mobile apps used most by this group of people.
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