Gallup: Obamacare Hurting the Middle Class

Gallup reports that more Americans are delaying medical care because of cost. It is now 33 percent of respondents, versus only 19 percent in 2001. Some would love to blame this on consumer-driven health plans, which shift medical spending from premiums, which run through insurers’ bureaucracies, to patients’ direct control.

However, this increase in financial hardship happened between 2001 and 2006, before there were any consumer-driven plans to speak of. Since 2006, the share of Americans delaying medical care because of cost has bounced between 29 percent and 33 percent, despite a dramatic increase in consumer-driven plans. (Last Friday, I discussed Mercer’s latest report on employer-based plans. In 2006, only 3 percent of beneficiaries with employer-based benefits had consumer-driven plans. This increased to 23 percent this year.)

The proportion of respondents facing financial hardship is likely creeping up because of Obamacare. Remarkably, the increase has almost entirely happened among insured Americans with middle-class and higher incomes. 34 percent of privately insured respondents reported that they had delayed medical care due to cost in 2014, versus only 25 percent last year. 28 percent of respondents in households with incomes of at least $75,000 reported delaying treatment, versus 17 percent in 2013.

The confusing figure in the Gallup poll is the proportion of respondents with household incomes under $30,000 who delayed treatment due to cost, which dropped from 43 percent to 35 percent. It appears that the drop is among healthy people who signed up for heavily subsidized Obamacare exchange plans and took advantage of “free” preventive care. We know that very sick people have extremely high out-of-pocket costs under Obamacare.

Obamacare is likely having no effect on health spending. Its most measureable consequence is to significantly increase financial hardship among middle-income and high-income voters. It’s no wonder Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer are jumping off the bandwagon.

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For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s widely acclaimed book: Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman.

John R. Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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