Health-Care Costs Keep 1 in 3 Americans From the Doctor

Health-care costs are keeping patients away from the doctor with about 1 in 3 Americans saying they put off a medical treatment or regular checkup because of the expense.

Medical costs were the most important factor in making a health-care decision for 27 percent of people, outweighing advice from their physician, according to a survey of 800 people by New York-based Hill & Knowlton Strategies. The results were released today at the Bloomberg Healthcare Innovations Conference in New York.

The price of insurance premiums have risen 97 percent since 2002 with families now contributing about $4,300 a year to employee-sponsored health plans, according to a report last month by the Commonwealth Fund. Still, most Americans said they aren’t willing to cut back on choice to save money and don’t want companies to scale back innovation to keep costs down.

“What the public needs and what it ultimately values – and will pay for — are not always the same thing,” said Susan Thiele, U.S. health-care practice director at Hill & Knowlton. “In this environment, it’s critical to understand shifting public opinion so that new advances are developed and positioned in a way that’s meaningful to consumers.”

In the survey, 45 percent of people said they worried a lot about paying medical bills in the event of a catastrophic illness or accident, and 36 percent said they are very concerned with paying for health-insurance coverage. When asked what the biggest problem facing health care in the U.S. was, 53 percent said cost.

Most respondents weren’t concerned about having access to the latest and most cutting-edge treatments. Instead, they said they would rather see companies come up with innovative ways to lower costs rather than finding new medicines or cures.

Of those surveyed, 85 percent had public or private health insurance and 11 percent were temporarily unemployed.

This article originally appeared in the October 2, 2012 edition of Bloomberg.

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