Rising healthcare costs caused by soaring inflation are forcing Americans to cut back on other areas of their lives – with 98 million people estimated to be either delaying or skipping treatment, reducing driving, cutting back on utilities and food, or borrowing money to pay medical bills.
A new Gallup survey of 3,000 people, commissioned by West Health – a group of non-profits which lobby to bring down healthcare costs – found that the high inflation was causing widespread belt-tightening.
The impact of 9.1 percent inflation – a 40-year high – was felt most acutely by those earning the least. But high earners were also reporting reassessing their budgets.
The Labor Department’s consumer price index skyrocketed 9.1 percent in June from a year earlier, a pace not seen since 1981.
The price of gasoline has jumped 61 percent over the past year, airfares 34 percent, eggs 33 percent.
Inflation has been rising so fast that despite the pay raises many workers have received, most consumers are falling behind the rising cost-of-living.
In June, average hourly earnings slid 3.6 percent from a year earlier adjusting for inflation, the 15th straight monthly drop from a year earlier.
Those surveyed said their biggest shift had been in medical care, with 26 percent of all respondents saying they had delayed or avoided medical care or purchasing prescription drugs over the last six months.
All respondents of a survey commissioned by West Health said that rising inflation had made them reconsider their spending on healthcare and medical treatments
Inflation in the U.S. rose to 9.1% in June, the highest since 1981
Among the respondents earning the least – less than $24,000 a year – 41 percent said they had reduced their spending on medical care. Even the wealthiest were cutting back: 11 percent of those earning over $180,000 a year said they too had cut their healthcare spending.
All agreed that driving was the second-largest area for cutbacks.
More than a third of the lowest earners, 36 percent, reported cutting down on their driving. Eight percent of the highest earners said they had reduced their time on the road.
Utilities were the third-ranked cutback, with 10 percent of respondents across the board saying they had tried to make savings.
Skipping a meal was a disturbingly high solution for some: one in five (21 percent) of those earning less than $24,000 a year said they cut back on food. Only 2 percent of the wealthiest said the same.
A woman in California – where fuel prices are the highest – fills her car. More than a third of the lowest earners, 36 percent, reported cutting down on their driving. Eight percent of the highest earners said they had reduced their time on the road
The wealthiest were also, unsurprisingly, the least likely to borrow money: only 1 percent said they had resorted to loans, credit cards and other forms of borrowing, 19 times less than those earning under $24,000 a year.
‘People have been making tradeoffs to pay for healthcare for years,’ said Timothy A. Lash, president of the research and lobbying group.
‘Inflation has only made things worse as people are also now struggling with the high price of gas, food, and electricity.
‘However, unlike those expenses, Congress has the power right now to reduce healthcare prices, particularly for prescription drugs. Legislation is on the table.’
The survey also found discrepancies between women and men.
Women under the age of 50 cut back on medical care and medicine at higher rates than their male counterparts, with 36 percent of women, and 27 percent of men making reductions.
DailyMail.com researched prices of everyday items and calculated how much they would cost had inflation stayed at the Federal Reserve’s target 2 percent rate — not the runaway hikes we’ve seen this past year — to find out how much extra consumers are currently paying
Rising healthcare costs were concerning for all Americans: 39 percent report being ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about being unable to pay for care in the next six months, including 33 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents.
‘Inflation is hollowing out consumer spending habits across an array of areas,’ said Dan Witters, senior researcher at Gallup.
‘What is found just under the surface is that after gas and groceries, the role of inflation in reducing the pursuit of needed care is large and significant.
‘And the rising cost of care itself, which is originating from an already elevated level, is having an outsized impact on lessening other forms of spending, compounding the problem.’