Americans borrow $88 billion annually to pay for healthcare, survey finds

2 min
April 02, 2019

April 2, 2019

by Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) Americans borrowed a staggering $88 billion in the past year to pay for healthcare, a new survey finds.

About 1 in 8 had to resort to borrowing to afford care in the previous year, according to a West Health-Gallup survey released Tuesday. Also, 65 million adults say they had a health issue but didn’t seek treatment due to cost. Nearly a quarter had to cut back on spending to pay for healthcare or medicine.

“Not only do you have a real significant number that are deferring care, forgoing care altogether, you also have a big chunk that are getting the care but having to borrow to get it,” said Dan Witters, Gallup senior researcher. “There are few Americans out there who are safe from the American healthcare cost crisis.”

These statistics are the latest examples of how the nation is struggling with the high cost of medical care. The United States spent more than $10,700 per person on healthcare in 2017, federal data shows. That’s more than any other country, yet America consistently ranks near the bottom of major health indices among developed nations, the survey said.

Reducing spending on care — particularly prescription drugs — has become a key talking point for President Donald Trump and lawmakers on both sides of political aisle. The President has taken steps and offered many proposals to curtail costs, while Congress has held hearings and worked on legislation to do the same. They are looking at soaring insulin prices in particular, after families have said they’ve lost loved ones who could not afford their treatment.

“Particularly in today’s political climate, all too often, we are focusing on the policies and legislation and not the problem that needs to be solved,” said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, a nonprofit group seeking to lower healthcare costs for seniors.

But most of these efforts are on the margins, experts say.


Timothy Lash
President, Gary and Mary West Foundation
President, West Health Institute
President & Chair, West Health Policy Center