A Shocking Number of Americans Know Someone Who Died Due to Unaffordable Healthcare

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By Jeffrey Young |HuffPost

The high costs of the U.S. health care system are killing people, a new survey concludes.

In the last five years, 34 million Americans watched as someone they knew died because they couldn’t afford medical treatment, according to a survey report that Gallup and West Health published Tuesday.

That means 13% of Americans personally knew someone who died who didn’t get the medical care they knew they needed because they couldn’t afford it.

Reflecting the deep disparities in the economy and the health care system endured by racial minorities and low-income people, nonwhites and the people who earn the least money were about twice as likely to report knowing someone who died under these circumstances, the survey reveals.

Twenty percent of nonwhite respondents reported knowing someone who died because of unaffordable health care, twice the share of white people. Similarly, 19% of those living in households with incomes below $40,000 annually had this experience, compared with 11% of those earning $40,000 to $100,000 and 9% of those with higher incomes.

Americans older than 65 were the least likely to report knowing someone in this situation, perhaps reflecting Medicare’s universal coverage of retirees. Among adults ages 18 to 44, 17% said they knew someone who died because of high health care costs, more than the 12% of those 45 to 64 and 7% of people older than 65.

“It’s outrageous in the United States that so many people have lost a family member or friend simply because the cost of health care is so high,” Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, said in a news release. “It is a tragic statement on the state of health care in America.” The polling company Gallup and West Health, a consortium of nonprofits focused on lowering health care costs for older Americans, polled 1,099 U.S. adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in September.

The Affordable Care Act reduced the national uninsured rate to a historic low via a Medicaid expansion, the availability of private health insurance coverage regardless of preexisting conditions and the creation of subsidies for low- and middle-income people. Last year, 8.5% of U.S. residents, or about 28 million people, were uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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