- More than 13% of American adults say they have at least one friend or family member who died in the last five years after being unable to afford medical care.
- People of colour, younger people and those with low incomes were far more likely to know someone who died under these circumstances.
- The US does not have a universal healthcare program, and there's a link between income and ability to afford medical treatment.
This is a stark statistic: 34 million Americans know someone who died after being unable to afford needed medical treatment.
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Gallup and West Health asked 1,095 people the following question: "Has there been a time in the last five years when a friend or family member passed away after not receiving treatment for their condition due to their inability to pay for it?"
While 13% answered "yes," there are significant variations among the sample.
People of colour were far more likely than white people to know someone who died after being unable to pay for medical treatment – 20.3% vs. 9.6%.
Younger respondents were also more likely to have answered "yes" – 16.9% of respondents age 18-44 and 12.4% of respondents age 45-64. Only 6.6% of baby boomers answered "yes," by comparison.
Income and voting intentions
In 2017, the median household income in the United States was $61,372 – and not surprisingly, income also affected respondents' answers. Among those earning less than $40,000, 18.5% were likely to have known someone who couldn’t afford potentially life-saving treatment, compared to 9.1% of those earning more than $100,000.
In a country which does not have a universal healthcare program, the link between income and access to services – or the lack of access – is hard to miss.
But the Gallup-West Health poll also illustrated a less obvious finding: the correlation between political affiliation and the likelihood of a person knowing someone who died under these circumstances.
Just 4.9% of Republicans answered "yes," while 14.8% of Democrats and 16.4% of independents answered "yes."