Many sick Americans say their health concerns became significant financial problems, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Health concerns became significant financial problems for many Americans experiencing a serious illness or injury over the past year, accord to a new study commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to improving the health and health care of all Americans.
The vast majority of Americans (87 percent) thinks the cost of health care is a serious problem in the U.S., according to the study, and 65 percent of the general public feels the problem has gotten worse over the past five years.
Well over half (57 percent) of the general public identify the quality of health care as a serious national problem. More than three-fourths (78 percent) blame the prohibitive costs of tests or drugs as a major contributor to the nation’s health concerns. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) blame quality problems on the influence of health insurance companies.
The perception is even more negative among Americans who over the past 12 months have been hospitalized overnight or required a lot of medical care for a serious illness, condition, injury or disability. More than 40 percent of these “sick” Americans say medical expenses have caused financial problems for the family. Twenty percent describe the problem as “very serious” and 23 percent say the financial concerns were “somewhat serious.”
High health care costs are also preventing sick Americans from obtaining needed health care, according to the study, released this week by the foundation, National Public Radio and the Harvard School of Public Health. One out of every six of the “sick” Americans (17 percent) report a time in the past 12 months when they could not get the medical care they needed. More than half (52 percent) said they could not afford the care, and 42 percent said their insurers would not pay for it.
More than 10 percent of sick Americans said they were turned away by a doctor or hospital for financial or insurance issues in the past 12 months. Sick people who lacked insurance faced even greater financial barriers to health care. Forty percent could not access health care when they needed it at some point in the last year.
“The rising cost of medical care affects everyone, but people who have been unwell know firsthand that an illness or injury can mean financial hardship or ruin,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.
Health concerns pose significant financial concerns for even the wealthiest Americans, according to Millionaire Corner research completed in the first quarter of 2012. High net worth investors – those with investable assets of $5 million to $25 million – rank health issues among their top personal financial concerns. Nearly two-thirds are worried about the financial impact of a spouse’s health concerns, and 60 percent are worried about the consequences of their own health issues. About half (49 percent) worry about the financial impact of a family health catastrophe. Health concerns are greatest for high net worth investors age 65 and older.
Quality of care issues reported by the sick Americans included receiving the wrong diagnosis, treatment or test (13 percent); not receiving all the needed information about their treatment or prescription (25 percent); and poor communication among health care professionals during a hospitalization (30 percent).