Despite Obamacare, a ‘shockingly high’ number of people know someone who died after being unable to afford healthcare

2 min
November 13, 2019

By Catey Hill

November 13, 2019

Insurance can’t fix all that ails us.

One in eight American adults — an estimated 34 million people — say they have at least one friend or family member who died in the last five years after being unable to afford treatment for a medical condition, according to a new West Health-Gallup survey of more than 1,000 adults released Tuesday.

“This is a shockingly high number,” Dan Witters, the research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, tells MarketWatch.

He says this high number is likely a combination of many factors, including the high cost of healthcare, a lack of savings to pay for emergencies, the fact that even with health insurance many Americans still can’t afford care, and that more people are now living without health insurance than even a few years ago.

He has a point: Witters believes that “the single biggest reason people can’t afford care is because of the cost of care itself, which is double per person in the U.S. what it is in peer countries.” (That’s data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.) And a study published this year by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health concluded that” the United States, on a per capita basis, spends much more on healthcare than other developed countries; the chief reason is not greater healthcare utilization, but higher prices.”

What’s more, roughly 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 if they faced an unexpected expense, and more than 1 in 10 wouldn’t be able to afford that expense at all, according to Federal Reserve data released this year.