Health care costs are so high that 98 million Americans say they’ve had to cut spending on food and gas

By L’oreal Thompson Payton

August 4, 2022

Gas and groceries aren’t the only necessities costing more these days. In an effort to accommodate higher health care costs, Americans have been delaying or skipping treatments altogether. According to a new survey from West Health and Gallup, 38% of Americans, or roughly 98 million people, cut back on food, gas, utilities, and other costs to pay for health care expenses in the past six months. 

The poll, which was conducted in June 2022 when inflation reached a 40-year high of 9.1%, included 3,001 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of the Gallup panel.

“It’s a double-edged sword when you’ve got general inflation, which is curtailing consumer behavior, and then you’ve got health care inflation, which is only half as great, but it’s still a lot higher than it’s been on average in recent years,” says Dan Witters, senior researcher at Gallup. “And of course, health care is expensive to begin with. We’ve been measuring and tracking the burden of the cost of care on American adults now for four years, and this is one more chapter in that story.”

While tradeoffs were higher in lower-income households with more than half of those earning less than $48,000 annually making cuts, nearly 20% of higher-earning households (those making more than $180,000 a year) were forced to cut back on spending as well. The survey also found that 36% of women under 50 cut back on medical care and medicine compared to 27% of men under 50.

“We found that females were disproportionately impacted by the high cost of health care,” says Timothy A. Lash, president of West Health. “We also know from other evidence that females utilize health care at a higher rate and unfortunately we still have gender inequality in terms of income, so it’s not surprising that there’s a higher impact of health care costs there.”