38% of Americans Postponed Medical Care Due to Cost Last Year

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  • The percentage of Americans delaying medical care due to cost rose in 2022.
  • It's important to set aside funds for healthcare so you're not forced to postpone key treatments.
  • You should also see what wellness benefits you're entitled to through your health insurance company.

Did you go a similar route?

Over the past year, the cost of many common expenses has risen. And healthcare is one of them. In January, medical care services were up 3% on an annual basis, as per that month's Consumer Price Index.

Given the generally high cost of healthcare to begin with and the impact of inflation, it's not all that surprising to learn that consumers are delaying medical care due to money issues. But what is surprising is the number of consumers who are being forced to postpone health treatment.

The number of people delaying healthcare is growing

In a recent Gallup poll, 38% of Americans put off medical care due to the cost involved. That's considerably more than the 26% of Americans who went the same route in 2021.

Of course, it's easy to see why more people are delaying medical care. Inflation surged in 2022, forcing many consumers to rack up credit card debt and deplete their savings. And there wasn't any stimulus aid to be had, unlike in 2021. So all told, it's not so shocking that healthcare fell by the wayside.

But putting off medical care could have very serious consequences. In some cases, it could mean making an existing issue even worse. In other cases, it could mean incurring costlier bills in the course of treatment. So it's really important to do your best to save for healthcare costs, despite the challenge of doing so.

Make medical care a priority

It's certainly not easy to carve out room for medical spending when every expense is so elevated these days. But it's best to do what you can to build up some savings for healthcare expenses. 

Now, you could just pad your regular savings account and take funds from there when medical bills arise. But if you're eligible to contribute money to a health savings account, or HSA, that's an even better bet.

HSA contributions go in tax-free, so there's some immediate savings there. You can also invest the money in your HSA that you don't need to use right away and watch it grow on a tax-free basis. HSA withdrawals are tax-free as well, provided you use that money for qualified medical expenses.

Best of all, HSA funds never expire. So you don't have to worry about not using up your plan balance every year.

If you don't have a health insurance plan that's compatible with an HSA (which may be the case if you're not on a high-deductible plan), then you could see if your employer will allow you to sign up for a flexible spending account (FSA) instead. FSAs are more limiting in that you have to use up your funds every year or risk forfeiting that money, but you can still reap tax savings in the form of tax-free contributions. 

See what free benefits you're entitled to

Saving money for healthcare could help you receive key medical treatments as soon as possible. But at the same time, it always pays to see what free wellness benefits you may be entitled to as a health insurance plan enrollee. 

Most plans allow you one free physical and associated blood work every year. Women are also commonly entitled to a free annual mammogram once they reach a certain age. Explore your plan benefits so you don't pass up no-cost care accidentally.

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