Americans’ greatest financial worry? Cost of healthcare

WASHINGTON, D.C.
June 25, 2017 9:01pm
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•  Concerns rise as politicians wrestles with the issue

•  Concern about low wages lowest since before Great Recession


As Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate try to round up enough votes to pass legislation that could significantly change the nation's healthcare system, the cost of healthcare leads the list of what Americans consider the most important financial problem facing their family, according to new polling by Gallup Inc.

The 17 percent who name healthcare costs as their family's most pressing financial problem is up seven percentage points since 2013 and is just two points shy of the all-time high of 19 percent recorded in 2007.

Republicans in Congress, as well as President Donald Trump, may argue that rising concern about healthcare costs is yet another reason why the ACA should be repealed. However, says Gallup, it is possible that news about the potential repeal of the ACA may itself be causing concern about healthcare costs to spike, as was the case in 2010, when Congress passed the bill after a long debate.

Americans' concerns about the cost of healthcare fell substantially in 2008 amid the financial recession. These concerns were replaced with more fundamental financial problems such as a lack of money, low wages and unemployment. Higher gas prices also weighed heavily on American families' finances at that time, according to Gallup’s surveys.

As the political debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) heated up in late 2009 and 2010, healthcare costs once again became one of the most commonly cited top financial problems, reaching as high as 15 percent in April 2010, shortly after the bill was signed into law (though the figure fell to 10 percent later that year).

Over the next few years, concern about healthcare typically stayed around the 12 percent to 14 percent range, in Gallup’s polling, although in 2013, concerns dropped down to 10 percent as more provisions of the legislation were implemented. However, concerns again inched up in 2014 and continued moving up in subsequent years, culminating with this year's 17 percent, the highest level since October 2007.

Rising concern about healthcare costs comes at a time when Republicans in Congress are working to develop a plan to repeal major parts of the ACA, if not the entire legislation. Uncertainty surrounding the new healthcare bill and how it would affect costs may be one reason that more Americans cite healthcare as a top financial problem.

Other Financial Concerns Are Easing

Besides healthcare costs, Gallup says other prominent financial problems Americans name as the most important facing their family this year include high debt (11 percent), lack of money (10 percent) and college expenses (10 percent).

In some instances, these financial anxieties have lessened in recent years, Gallup says. Notably, the 10 percent of Americans who say low wages are their family's biggest problem this year is the lowest since before the financial crisis.

Likewise, concerns about the high cost of living or inflation have fallen to 8 percent this year from 13 percent in 2011 -- likely the result of falling fuel prices, says Gallup.

But other concerns are showing no signs of retreat. Eleven percent of Americans name “too much debt” as their family's most important financial problem, on par with readings in the post-recession period. Concern about college expenses -- a problem that has received growing attention in recent years -- was steady this year at 10 percent, according to Gallup.

Other financial problems Americans mention include the cost of owning or renting a home (9 percent), the high cost of living (8 percent), retirement savings (6 percent), taxes (5 percent), unemployment or loss of a job (3 percent), Social Security (3 percent) and lack of savings (2 percent).

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-11, with a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70 percent cellphone respondents and 30 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.


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