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A Medicare for All supporter holds a sign on Capitol Hill.

A Medicare for All supporter holds a sign on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images)

Amid Renewed Medicare for All Push, Study Shows 112 Million Americans Struggle to Afford Healthcare

Noting the new research, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that "it's time for Medicare for All."

Jessica Corbett

As progressives in Congress cast attention on Medicare for All legislation this week, research published Thursday highlighted that Americans are frustrated and struggling due to the for-profit U.S. healthcare system.

"We must begin to change this trajectory with smarter policies that put patients over profits."

Gallup and West Health unveiled their new Healthcare Affordability Index and Healthcare Value Index, which are based on the opinions of over 6,600 American adults surveyed last fall, during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The surveys revealed that an estimated 44% of American adults—or roughly 112 million people—are struggling to pay for healthcare and a full 93% feel they "are paying too much for the quality of care received."

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who on Wednesday announced his panel will hold a Medicare for All hearing in early May—highlighted the findings on Twitter as evidence of the need for an overhaul.

Sanders' announcement about the upcoming event came a day after the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a Medicare for All hearing—during which Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) pointed out how the pandemic has "exposed just how broken the healthcare system is in our country."

"Millions of people across the country know that passing Medicare for All is long overdue," Tlaib said. "In the richest country, our residents should not face financial ruin, continue to be sick, or even die, because they lack adequate coverage and care."

The new research reveals that's exactly what many Americans endure. Gallup and West Health found that nearly half of American adults are "cost insecure" or "cost desperate," meaning they report recent occurrences of not being able to afford healthcare and aren't likely to have easy access to affordable care, or they consistently can't afford needed treatment or prescribed medication and lack easy access to care, respectively.

As Gallup senior researcher Dan Witters detailed in a blog post:

The likelihood of being cost desperate is more than four times greater for those living in households earning under $48,000 per year (13%) compared with those living in households earning $90,000+ per year (3%). Fewer than three in five Americans are classified as "cost secure," meaning they report being able to consistently access and pay for quality care and medicine. Men are more likely to be classified as cost secure than are women (60% to 53%), and Hispanic adults (51%) are less likely to be cost secure than non-Hispanic white counterparts (58%).

"These indices are tracking the healthcare cost crisis in America and its impact on everyday Americans," said West Health president Tim Lash. "Bottom line—Americans are increasingly getting priced out of the system and many of those who can still afford to pay don't think they're getting their money's worth relative to the cost."

Half of those surveyed said that "either their household or Americans generally are paying too much for the quality of the care that they receive or that their most recent care experience was not worth the cost," Witters noted.

Another 45% "report that both their household and Americans generally are paying too much for the quality of the care that they receive and that their most recent care experience was not worth the cost," he continued. That means just 5% of Americans believe the care they receive is worth the cost.

According to Lash, "We must begin to change this trajectory with smarter policies that put patients over profits."

Witters, in a statement, suggested that their findings could help guide decision-makers' reform efforts.

"These estimates are important resources for policymakers, researchers, and the public to evaluate and understand the burden of high healthcare costs," he said. "The indices paint a comprehensive picture of why Americans are unable to keep pace with the rising costs and don't see value in the care they are receiving."

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