One in seven Americans 'would not seek medical care for coronavirus symptoms' due to fear of cost

New research suggests White House moves to make tests free have not mitigated concerns over other possible charges

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 29 April 2020 14:06
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Around one in seven Americans would not seek medical if they developed a fever or dry cough because of concerns over costs, a new poll has found.

It suggests that almost 35 million people might avoid seeing a doctor for the symptoms, which are known manifestations of Covid-19.

The new poll was conducted by Gallup and non-profit organisation West Health and published on Tuesday. It further found that 9 per cent of people would avoid healthcare even when the question was “framed explicitly as believing [they] have been infected by the novel coronavirus“.

However, in an analysis document Gallup said that confusion might also play a part in the figures. It said: “Mentioning coronavirus by name reduces the percentage of people who would not seek treatment by roughly one-third, suggesting that lack of clarity regarding the common symptoms of Covid-19 could be a factor in not pursuing it, beyond household economics or basic access.”

Another 6 per cent of people – or the equivalent of 15 million residents – reported cases in which they or a family member had denied medical care for non-coronavirus health issues due to the volume of patients flooding hospitals.

Healthcare is likely to be a major point of debate in November’s presidential election following calls by Democrats to make it more affordable and more widely available.

West Health is conducting a series of studies on US public opinion of the cost of staying well.

Young adults, people from ethnic minority groups and those with a high-school education or less – as well as households with incomes lower than $40,000 (£32,273) per year – were the groups most likely to avoid care, Gallup analysts said.

“Millions of Americans, even in the face of a disease that has brought a country to its knees, would forgo care due to the potential expense and still others may not be clear on the common symptoms of Covid-19,” said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for West Health, in a press release.

“While physicians and healthcare workers are doing courageous and lifesaving work, the pandemic magnifies the longstanding perils and flaws of a high-cost healthcare system in need of reform.”

One million people in the US have now contracted coronavirus and more than 58,000 have died.

John Auerbach, head of the non-partisan Trust for America’s Health group, warned on Tuesday that West Health’s report held a lesson for politicians.

“I hope that policy makers take note,” said Auerbach. “Without widespread testing, it will be problematic to lift the restrictions.”

On Tuesday evening, Donald Trump suggested that for the US to re-open its economy, some 5 million coronavirus tests would need to be conducted each day by June.

The West Health and Gallup report was compiled using a nationally representative survey of 1,017 US adults.

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