Health insurance has not led to much financial relief for many Americans in need of medical care, a new survey indicates.

Many insured Americans still pinched by medical costs

By: James Abbey, February 4, 2016

Instant online health insurance quotes have enabled more Americans to get their families covered. Yet accessibility hasn't led to greater affordability, according to a new survey.

Health coverage traditionally enables consumers to see their primary care physicians without it costing a lot of money out of pocket. However, approximately 20 percent of Americans say they're still experiencing financial struggles after securing coverage that started with a health insurance estimate, based on a recent joint poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times. Approximately 1 in 5 with coverage reported hardship covering medical bills that their policy didn't provide for.

Medical expenses force many Americans to dip into savings

"Two-thirds say much of their savings have been lost due to medical bills."

Some have had to tap into their savings accounts to make up the difference. Close to two-thirds – 63 percent – indicated they had used up most or all of their savings, the KFF/New York Times survey found. Meanwhile, 4 in 10 assumed more hours at work, with the extra proceeds going to out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Health insurance protection makes doctor appointments less financially taxing. The survey discovered, though, that coverage was far from being a problem-solving elixir. In fact, roughly 44 percent of people reporting financial struggles had a policy, purchased individually or via their employer, the KFF/New York Times poll found. Meanwhile, 45 percent of the uninsured indicated as much, a negligible difference.

Out-of-pocket costs affecting standard of living
Financial stress stemming from medical costs has forced many Americans to make concessions in other areas of life. For example, among respondents with a health policy in effect, more than three-quarters said they'd postponed a vacation or significant household purchases, the survey showed. Roughly the same share said they'd spent less on clothing and other day-to-day essentials and nearly 40 percent racked up more debt on their credit cards. At 14 percent, a much smaller percentage had to go to more substantial lengths to cut back on spending by changing their living situation.

While some Americans have delayed certain purchases so they can take care of medical expenses, it's been the opposite for others. Nearly one-third in a separate survey by Gallup said they've postponed seeing a doctor because the cost was too much. That's roughly the same share who delayed medical treatment from 12 months ago.

However, two-thirds indicated that cost hadn't prevented them from seeking treatment in the past year, the survey showed.