The percentage of Americans who skip medical care because of cost is back to pre-Obamacare levels

A woman with a small bag full of various prescription drugs

More Americans than ever before had health insurance coverage by 2022, thanks to Medicaid’s continuous enrollment, a feature of the covid emergency. And yet, 28% of the US population chose to skip medical care because of cost – the highest percentage since Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, became available in 2014.

According to the 2022 U.S. Household Financial Well-Being report released in May by the Federal Reserve (pdf), nearly a third of American adults were worried about health care costs to the point of forgoing treatment. This represents a 4% increase since 2021, when 24% said they skipped care. Only a year before, in 2020, the percentage reached an all-time low of 23%.

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The data is in line with other findings in the report that capture a country preoccupied and challenged by personal financial challenges.

Financial stress weighs on health choices

Although 91% of American adults had insurance by 2022, many still could not afford to pay, and 26% of them skipped care. For uninsured patients, the percentage was higher at 42%.

People decided to forego all forms of medical treatment. Dental services were the most common, with 21% of US adults saying they had decided to pass on care because of cost. Next on the list, 16% of respondents skipped doctor visits, and 10% skipped follow-up visits, mental health treatment, and prescription medications.

This is in line with the overall financial well-being of American households, which has declined significantly in the past few years. In 2016, 53% of Americans said they did not face financial challenges. In 2022, only 28% said the same.

According to the report, only 73% of American adults said they were “at least OK” financially in 2022, down from 78% in 2021. The decline was significant, especially among parents living with minor children: Only 69% of such households said they were at least financially okay, down from 75% in 2021.

The issue of forgoing care may be most closely related to the ability to cover unexpected expenses. Only 63% of American adults would be able to cover a $400 windfall without going into debt, down from 68% in 2021.

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The percentage of Americans who skip medical care because of cost is back to pre-Obamacare levels

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