21% of U.S. Residents Report Trouble Paying Medical, Drug Bills in 2008, Poll Finds
Twenty-one percent of U.S. residents reported having difficulty paying for needed medical care or medications in December 2008, up from 18% in January 2008, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, USA Today reports. The poll, conducted by Gallup and disease management company Healthways, surveyed an estimated 1,000 U.S. residents each day during 2008 about their physical, emotional and economic well-being for a total of 355,334 respondents. According to Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for well-being and workplace management, each percentage point represents about 2.2 million U.S. residents (Szabo/Appleby, USA Today, 3/11).
The poll found that:
- 52% of the uninsured reported problems paying for health care or medications at some point in 2008, compared with 14% of those with insurance (USA Today graphic, 3/11);
- Fewer U.S. residents reported getting health insurance through their employer as the year progressed, with 59% of people enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage in the first quarter of the year and 58% in the last quarter;
- 17% of whites reported problems paying for health care or medications, compared with 30% of blacks, 31% of Hispanics and 13% of Asians. The number of blacks reporting health care payment trouble increased by six percentage points from the first quarter of 2008 to the last quarter to 34%;
- Hawaii had the smallest percentage of residents who reported having problems paying for medical care or medication at 12%, compared with Mississippi, which had the highest percentage at 29%;
- Income levels influenced how people felt about their physical well-being, with 40% of those with monthly incomes between $500 and $1,000 reporting dissatisfaction with their health, compared with 10% of those making at least $10,000 a month (Szabo/Appleby, USA Today, 3/11);
- 15% of married people reported having trouble paying medical bills, compared with 19% of divorced people, 24% of single people, 32% of people in domestic partnerships and 16% of those who are widowed;
- 22% of females reported difficulty, compared with 17% of men; and
- 39% of people with incomes of less than $2,000 per month reported problems paying for medical care or medications, compared with 24% of those with monthly incomes between $2,000 and $3,999, 12% of those with monthly incomes between $4,000 and $7,499, and 7% of those with monthly incomes of $7,500 or more (USA Today graphic, 3/11).
Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said, "The biggest problem that the country has is actually the cost of health care," adding, "It's a lot bigger problem than war and a bigger problem than the current meltdown because there are no fixes to it on the horizon right now" (Szabo/Appleby, USA Today, 3/11).
The poll also found that 34% of U.S. residents did not visit a dentist in 2008. In nine states, nearly half of residents did not visit a dentist in 2008, despite the American Dental Association's recommendation for semiannual cleanings and checkups. In addition, the poll found that more than half of people with monthly incomes of less than $2,000 reported forgoing dental visits. According to Matthew Messina, a dentist and consumer adviser for ADA, men, blacks, Hispanics and seniors were more likely to skip dental care.
States in which the most residents visited a dentist were Massachusetts and Washington, as more than 75% of residents of both states received cleanings or checkups. Mississippi had the highest number of people who reported no dental visits at 47% (Brophy Marcus, USA Today, 3/11).
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is available online.