For people age 55 and over, staying healthy involves eating right, being active, managing stress, and seeing the health care provider for regular checkups. But a recent poll found that many consumers are more afraid of getting the medical bill, than of facing an actual illness.

Health care costs are skyrocketing these days, and although the number of older adults continues to rise, as the baby boomers reach retirement age, patient visits to their physician has declined. According to a recent CNBC News article, that’s because “a growing number of consumers are staying away out of fear of big bills.”

Although attempting to avoid health care expenses, by delaying getting medical care, may seem like a good way to save money, in the long-run, it’s more expensive. “Untimely visits or delay of visits to the physician ultimately leads to the increased cost of care,” the Cleveland Clinic’s CEO told CNBC. And as the cost of health care continues to rise in the U.S., so too does the incidence of consumers who skip visits to their doctor—particularly retired adults on a limited budget.

The rising incidence of putting off medical care has nothing to do with the fear of medical procedures or of discovering a serious illness, but rather, a phobia about huge deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses—for many consumers.

Rising Cost of Health Care in the U.S.

Health care costs in the United States continue to climb at a rate of over $10K per person, per year (according to statistics in 2016). A more recent poll discovered that in the past year, 44% of Americans said they don’t want to visit their doctor when they are injured or ill, because of the fear of the financial hit. In addition, the poll revealed that 40% of the people surveyed admitted to skipping a medical test or treatment recommended by their health care provider–to save money. Most of the people in the poll who admitted to skipping medical services have health insurance they purchase directly, or through Medicare or Medicaid.

“There have been so many changes in the health care landscape in the United States that this news is not entirely surprising,” Cleveland Clinic president and CEO Tom Mihaljevic told CNBC’s “On the Money” in a recent interview. However, Mihaljevic explained that there are some severe consequences involved in skipping physician visits. “One of the most important consequences of skipping medical care or delaying care ultimately impacts the quality of care, impacts the outcome,” he said. “Untimely visits or delay of visits to the physician ultimately leads to the increased cost of care.”

Why Americans Fear Medical Bills More Than a Major Illness

Another poll was conducted by the West Health Institute and the University of Chicago; this poll discovered that “Americans fear large medical bills more than they do serious illness,” says CNBC. In fact, the poll revealed that as many as 40% of those who answered the questionnaire responded that paying for health care is more frightening than the medical condition itself. “Part of the problem here is health care tends to be very complex, and every patient typically requires a number of procedures and tests to be done, so it’s really difficult to estimate the upfront cost of care, ” Mihaljevic told CNBC News.

The poll also revealed that in the past, many consumers ended up getting a bill for services they thought were covered, so, the unknown factor of receiving medical services adds to the overall financial worry. “There is an absolute need for increased transparency when it comes to cost for our industry as a whole,” Mihaljevic added.


CNBC News.