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Americans delay medical care over lack of savings, survey says

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Many Americans are putting off medical care, in some cases for serious conditions, because they don’t have the funds to cover rising costs, a recent survey said.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they or a family member had to delay medical care because of cost in 2022, a 12-point increase from the year before and the highest in the 22-year history of Gallup’s survey.

The sharp uptick in respondents saying they put off medical care is tied to the higher costs of medical care. High inflation has impacted consumers’ costs across the board, but it is showing signs of easing. January’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of inflation, showed that medical care fell by 0.4% after increasing in December. But The cost of hospital services rose 0.5% and the price of prescription drugs increased by 2.1% in January.

“With high inflation creating moderate to severe hardship for a majority of Americans in the second half of 2022, their reports of delaying medical care in general due to cost – as well as delaying care for a serious condition – rose sharply to new highs,” the Gallup survey said. “Young adults, those in lower-income households and women were especially likely to say they or a family member had put off medical care.”

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Recent law may help Americans build savings

Sixty-eight percent of Americans said they had at least $400 saved to cover emergency expenses, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s (FRB) latest economic well-being of U.S. households survey.   

However, 28% of respondents said they had faced major, unexpected medical expenses in the past year that cost between $1,000 and $1,999.

“The overall share of adults who would cover a small emergency expense using cash or its equivalent increased to the highest level since 2013, when the survey began,” the FRB survey said. “Financial preparedness is an important buffer for those who encounter unexpected events, such as medical expenses or disruptions from natural disasters.”

The Secure 2.0 Act of 2022 – a follow-up to the 2019 Secure Act will impact how some Americans can fund emergency savings. 

Beginning in 2024, sponsors of individual account plans can create “emergency savings accounts” that permit non-highly compensated employees to make Roth after-tax contributions to a special savings account within their retirement plan, a Morgan Lewis report said. 

Contributions to the special savings account would be limited to $2,400 and the first four withdrawals each year would be tax and penalty-free. Contributions could also be eligible for an employee match if the plan rules allow for it, according to Fidelity.

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Other ways to cover medical costs

Health insurance is one way that Americans pay for routine medical expenses and help lessen the burden of larger unexpected costs, according to the FRB survey. People without health plans were twice as likely to have to do without medical treatment because of cost concerns, the survey said.

Here are more ways to prepare for medical costs in advance:

Understand your health insurance plan’s benefits

Understanding how your health insurance plan works can help you save money on routine health screenings. The bonus is that regular visits can help catch problems early when they are easier to treat, according to Medline Plus. 

Consider using a health savings account

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow you to set aside pre-tax money to pay for medical expenses. That means you save money on taxes because the money you put in and take out is either tax-free or tax-deductible.

Many health plans that include HSAs are high-deductible and low-premium plans. 

If you have accumulated debt, you could consider using a personal loan to help you pay it down at a lower interest rate. You can visit Credible to compare multiple personal loan lenders at once and choose the one with the best interest rate for you.

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Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at moneyexpert@credible.com and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

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