December 11, 2019

A record number of U.S. adults say they have put off receiving medical care due to cost, yet many say they are satisfied with their overall costs for health care, according to Gallup's annual Health and Healthcare poll.

Slide deck: What 2020's elections will mean for health care

For the poll, Gallup surveyed 1,015 U.S. adults from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14.

Record number of US adults say they've delayed care due to costs

According to Gallup, 33% of respondents said they or a family member delayed treatment for a medical condition during the past year due to cost, while 25% of respondents said they or a family member delayed treatment for a serious medical condition during the past year due to cost. Those percentages are up from 29% and 19%, respectively, in 2018.

Gallup said the percentage of respondents who reported delaying medical care for a serious medical condition because of cost reached a record high in 2019. According to Gallup, the previous high was 22%, which Gallup recorded both in 1991—the first year Gallup asked respondents about delaying medical care due to cost—and in 2014.

The percentage of respondents who reported delaying care in 2019 because of cost increased the most among those who reported having someone in their households with a pre-existing medical condition, as well as among those with annual household incomes of less than $40,000. According to the poll, the share of respondents who reported delaying medical care in 2019 because of cost increased by 13 percentage points among each of those groups.

But Gallup flagged as "[a] cautionary note in the new findings … that most of the recent increase in reports that family members are delaying treatment for serious conditions has occurred among self-identified Democrats." According to Gallup, the percentage of those who reported delaying care because of cost in 2019 is "up 12 points since 2018 among Democrats, compared with three- and five-point increases among Republicans and Independents, respectively."

Further, Gallup noted that Democratic respondents were more likely than Republican respondents to report that they or a family member have a pre-existing medical condition. "Whether these gaps are indicative of real differences in the severity of medical and financial problems faced by Democrats compared with Republicans or Democrats' greater propensity to perceive problems in these areas isn't entirely clear. But it's notable that the partisan gap on putting off care for serious medical treatment is currently the widest it's been in two decades," Gallup said.

Many US adults say they like their health coverage

But the poll also found that many of the respondents reported being satisfied with the amount they pay for health care overall.

According to the poll, 61% of respondents said they were satisfied with their personal health care costs, up from 58% in 2018. However, the poll found that satisfaction with personal health care costs differed by respondents' political affiliations. According to the poll, 73% of Republicans this year said they were satisfied with their personal health care costs, up from 60% last year. In comparison, 52% of Democrats this year said they were satisfied with their personal health care costs, down from 61% last year. Among Independents, 58% this year said they were satisfied with their health care costs, up from 52% in 2018.

Gallup noted, "Generally speaking, U.S. adults have shown consistent levels of satisfaction with what they pay for health care, ranging between 54% and 64% since Gallup first asked the question in 2001."

Gallup also found divergences on how respondents view their health coverage based on their political affiliations. According to the poll:

  • 81% of Republican respondents in 2019 said they think their health coverage is good or excellent, up from 76% in 2018; and
  • 71% of Democratic respondents in 2019 said they think their health coverage is good or excellent, up from 69% in 2018.

The poll also found that 86% of Republican respondents in 2019 said the quality of health care they receive is good or excellent, compared with 78% of Democratic respondents.

Overall, 79% of all respondents in 2019 said they viewed the quality of health care they receive as good or excellent, and 71% of all respondents said they viewed their health coverage as good or excellent.

Findings hint at implications for 2020 general election

Gallup said the poll's findings could provide insight into how U.S. voters might feel about health care reform proposals touted by candidates seeking office in 2020.

For instance, Gallup noted that respondents largely reported being "satisfied with their health care quality, coverage, and costs," but proposals offered by Democratic candidates to move the United States toward a single-payer health system "would likely result in Americans covered by private insurance plans being forced to give up the plans they currently have and enjoy." Gallup said, "[T]aking away health plans that Americans are generally positive about stands as a major obstacle in getting the public to support a single-payer system" (Klar, The Hill, 12/9; Luhby, CNN/Channel 3000, 12/9; Saad, Gallup release, 12/9; Jones, Gallup release, 12/9).

Slide deck: What 2020's elections will mean for health care

Election Day 2020 is less than a year away, and the lead up to next year's election has been teeming with health care discussions. Leading Democratic candidates have spent nearly every single debate hashing out so-called “Medicare for All” and other plans to increase insured rates in the United States, while President Trump has continued to move forward with plans to increase access to short-term and association health plans.

In this recent webinar, we broke down everything you need to know about the 2020 presidential and congressional elections—and highlighted the races that could hold the biggest implications for health care and policy going forward.

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