Americans Are More Afraid of Doctor Bills Than They Are of Being Sick

The skyrocketing cost of healthcare has become prohibitive for many Americans.

More people seem to be skipping physician visits, and U.S. healthcare costs rose to $10,000 a year per person in 2016.

According to a recent national poll, over the past 12 months 44% of Americans said they didn’t go to the doctor when they were sick or injured because of financial concerns.

Meanwhile, 40% said they skipped a recommended medical test or treatment.

Higher deductibles and out-of-network fees are some of the healthcare costs that can hit consumer pockets.

Also, the study found, most people who are delaying or skipping care actually have health insurance.

Of those surveyed, 86% said they’re covered either through their employer, have insurance they purchased directly, or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

“There have been so many changes in the health care landscape in the United States that this news is not entirely surprising,” Cleveland Clinic president and CEO Tom Mihaljevic told CNBC’s “On the Money.”

Mihaljevic also warned that skipping visits or treatment can be counterproductive.

“One of most important consequences of skipping medical care or delaying care ultimately impacts the quality of care, impacts the outcome,” he said.

“Untimely visits or delay of visits to the physician ultimately leads to the increased cost of care.”

The poll, conducted by the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, found Americans fear large medical bills more than they do serious illness.

The data showed 33 percent of those surveyed were “extremely afraid” or “very afraid” of getting seriously ill.

About 40% said paying for healthcare is more frightening than the illness itself.

“Part of problem here is healthcare tends to be very complex, and every patient typically requires a number of procedures and tests to be done, so it’s really difficult to estimate the upfront cost of care, ” Mihaljevic told CNBC.

Additionally, the survey found 54% of those polled received one or more medical bills over the past year for something they thought was covered by their insurance.

Meanwhile, 53% received a bill that was higher than they expected.

Mihaljevic acknowledged the range of different fees for the same services should be made clearer for consumers.

“There is an absolute need for increased transparency when it comes to cost and this is one of mandates for our industry as a whole,” he said.

Cost cutting

Regardless of your immediate situation, here are some tips offered by Consumer Reports, as they relate to healthcare.

First, ask your doctor whether you need a drug. You could be taking something that’s no longer necessary.

Two, talk to your doctor about cost. Many people don’t share their concerns about cost with their doctor.

Most doctors are happy to suggest less costly options, such as generics, if asked.

Finally, consider 90-day prescriptions, especially for chronic conditions.

Getting a 90-day prescription can cost you less than three co-pays over three months.