As inflation takes a toll, Americans face tough decisions about medical care
By Gabe Cohen
August 4, 2022
There are medicines that Angelina Scott can’t live without. Between her Atrial Fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the 45-year-old notary is currently taking five prescriptions.
“You can’t tell your heart, please don’t stop beating,” Scott told CNN.
But with sky high inflation and hundreds of dollars in monthly medical bills, Scott and her husband, a maintenance worker, are falling behind financially.
To cut costs, she’s stopped taking medicine for her irritable bowel syndrome, which she says cost several hundred dollars each month because insurance won’t cover it.
“People will [say], you can’t afford not to. No, literally I cannot afford to,” Scott said, adding that forgoing the medicine “makes me fatigued, lethargic, I get the shakes, very sickly.”
As high inflation takes a toll on household finances, millions of Americans are facing the same brutal decisions.
In June, US healthcare costs were up 4.5% from the year before, lagging overall inflation, which jumped 9.1% over the same 12-month period. But with the price of food, gas, rent and utilities surging at a far higher pace, many Americans are struggling to afford things like medical care.
“What this leads people to do is have to make horrible tradeoffs between paying for their medication or their diagnostic test or seeing their physician or their doctor and having to pay for basic cost of living — their gas, their food, their groceries, their childcare,” said Patient Advocate Foundation CEO Alan Balch.
A new survey from Gallup and West Health found nearly two in five adults — an estimated 98 million Americans — have delayed or skipped treatment, cut back on driving, utilities and food, or borrowed money, just to pay medical bills in the last six months.
Roughly one in four adults are skipping care or medicine due to rising costs, the survey found. And 39% have major concerns about affording care in the coming months.
“Inflation and its impact on health care are breaking families and breaking individuals and we need to wake up and act,” said West Health President Tim Lash.