Health Care Is Getting So Expensive, Young Adults Would Rather Just Skip It

Who needs silly things like prescriptions and MRIs when health care costs so much? Not the millions of young adults who are skipping necessary care and treatment because of the rising cost of getting medical attention, says a new report.

A Commonwealth Fund Survey found that 41% of young adults, ages 19 to 29, failed to get medical care in a recent one-year period because it costs too much. And among those that don’t have insurance it was even worse, at 60%, reports CNNMoney.

Skimping on care can include failing to fill prescriptions, deciding not to get tests or treatments recommended by doctors, never going to see a doctor in the first place or skipping out on seeing specialists.

“This reflects the high cost of medical care right now and health plans that may not cover people very well,” said Dr. Sara Collins, vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund and chief author of the survey.

When it comes to medical advice, young adults are all fingers in the ears, “na na na I can’t hear you” as soon as the high cost of treatment comes up. As one doctor puts it, you twist your knee playing soccer and go to get an MRI, but if the doctor says you’re going to have to pay 50% of that cost, odds are you might decide to just skip it.

And those who do seek care are under a heavy cloud of medical debt, with 36% of respondents saying they’ve had problems paying medical bills or were working on paying off medical debt over time. Many young adults are using up their savings, taking on credit card debt or were unable to pay off student loans because of medical debt.

One bright spot for young adults is a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows for parents to cover their offspring on their insurance plans until they reach the age of 26. That provision will be fully implemented by 2014, but could be stuck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, a big blow for young adults who can’t afford medical coverage on their own.

“If the law is struck down, the level of debt for young adults will continue to climb, and they will continue to worry about medical bills and not getting access to coverage,” said one survey author. “It all really compounds the difficulties young adults are facing at a really critical time given the economic environment.”

Young adults skip health care as medical debts rise [CNNMoney]


Edit Your Comment

  1. corridor7f says:

    “One bright spot for young adults is a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows for parents to cover their offspring on their insurance plans until they reach the age of 26.”

    Assuming THEY have the insurance to add them as a dependent. Not very encouraging.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Children of members of the military still have to pay for their health coverage. It costs less than if they purchased the same coverage from Tricare, but it’s more expensive than the insurance you can get through your university and you still have to pay for three months when you sign up.

      Some young adults don’t have the chance to be on their parents’ insurance for free. I am one of them.

  2. Doubting thomas says:

    That is a pretty broad base. I just had dental surgery. I was given a prescription for a painkiller. I chose not to have it filled because I didn’t want to pay for pills I didn’t need. I kept the prescription for a week just in case and then threw it out. Since I would have filled it if the pills had been free you could call that skipping on medical care due to costs. Yet it was my choice and it did not have any adverse effects on my health.

    • corridor7f says:

      You did right – I found the meds’ side-effects post oral surgery (4 wisdom teeth pulled) worse than the surgery itself and threw ’em out. Advil and a warm compress worked just as good – people are wimps, methinks.

      I also know people who chose to not have the laughing gas, since it’s not a covered expense under most insurance plans and isn’t absolutely necessary.

      • partofme says:

        My wisdom teeth removal was going down the same path as yours, only I was quite happy that I had filled and retained my prescription painkiller by the time I developed dry socket over the weekend.

  3. dwtomek says:

    Yep. If I am reasonably certain an affliction or injury will not result in death, then that shit ain’t worth it. I hope my predecessors are proud of the health care system they left for us to enjoy. Can’t thank them enough.

    • Astranger says:

      But I keep on hearing that it’s the best system on earth!?

    • Random Lurker says:

      Add to that… if I’m reasonably certain an injury or condition WILL result in death, I’ll still skip it, and not by choice either.

      The article unfortunately implies that these people are choosing to forego care; I’ve been referred to doctors that won’t even accept patients without insurance. Well, so much for that course of treatment…

  4. donjumpsuit says:

    At age 25, I was in graduate school and making $1100 a month. Health care was available at $230 a month taken from my salary. I elected to not pay this amount, due to me being in peak physical condition and not engaging in too much risk taking. $1100 may seem like a lot to some people but to me $1100 was not, and $870 is even less (the poverty line at the time was $800/mo).
    My intestines literally exploded (diverticulosis) on Christmas Day. $250k of medical bills later I made it out with my life and about 14 inches less large intestine. By some grace of God, I was eligible for Medicare Hawaii, because my income came from a Federal education grant. I didn’t pay a red penny for my health care and my life, but I am happy to contribute to it moving forward when they take it out of my paycheck as a tax.

    This is why I giggle at those who oppose universal healthcare. They have no idea of what they are talking about. Those who are poor/jobless get healthcare for free, no matter how loudly those protesters cry about universal health care. If a system was put in place to make sure beyond a reasonable doubt that everyone was covered equally, then there would be some regulations put in place. Instead those who pay healthcare premiums every month basically finance those who pay nothing at all.

    • dolemite says:

      Not only that, but people that pay massive premiums every month (where I work, its $950 a month for a family of four, and people here make barely above minimum wage), usually have giant deductibles too (3k, per person, per year here). How is someone making minimum wage going to afford roughly 15,000 a year for health insurance? And THEN when they finally need it, half the time, they have to fight the insurance company tooth and nail to get a procedure covered.

    • Mark702 says:

      You are the exemption, not the rule. Most can’t afford to pay to begin with, it’s that simple. And even if they could, the insurance company doesn’t “go to bat” for you, the go to battle against you, fighting every charge and procedure. But the main point is that it is simply too expensive for most people, and a universal health care mandate wouldn’t change that fact. We’d still be gouged of our money one way or the other.

  5. PsychoRaven says:

    I can certainly understand why. I went to the hospital recently to have a small cut made and some clots removed. For the 5 mins it took to make the small cut and remove the clots and then pack a small gause pad over it I was billed over $2,300 plus dollars. That’s just insane that a small cut and some gauze costs 2 grand.

    Our healhcare system needs a serious overhaul and very badly.

    • Random Lurker says:

      Call them up, say you don’t have insurance and want an alternative settlement plan. Don’t take no for an answer. Chances are they’ll cut down the price quite a lot, since they know they won’t get a cent out of you otherwise.

      • Random Lurker says:

        Not to discount your statement of course. They bill so high because they know (hope) insurance will pay it.

    • PunditGuy says:

      You didn’t pay for the labor or materials, you paid for the expertise.

      • Mark702 says:

        It’s still a majorly inflated price vs. what it should realistically cost. I can charge $800 to cut John Edwards hair, but he’s not paying for just the expertise or skill, he’s just throwing $100s away on what should be at MAX a $50 haircut.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      the cut cost $50.00, the gauze cost $15.00. The rest went to pay for infrastructure (call it $500.00), insane malpractice rates and paying for free riders who never pay their medical bills.

      • exconsumer says:

        I don’t believe I’ve seen a single source that puts medical malpractice insurance costs over 10%. Most report between 1% and 2%.

        • voogru says:

          Obviously you haven’t done much reading. Why don’t you go talk to an OBGYN and ask them what they think about malpractice insurance.

  6. dolemite says:

    I can’t recall the last time I was at the doctor. I think he said I was pre hypertension at the time. Oh well, I have real bills to pay.

  7. wade says:

    If only there was some law, some act of Congress, that specifically targeted making health care affordable. . .

    • Doubting thomas says:

      You mean instead of an abomination that will raise rates, violates the constitution, and is currently costing millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man hours because the various government agencies can’t get the exact specifications to hospitals and insurers so they can’t get to compliance?

      I am pro-health care reform, anti Obamacare.

      • mramos says:

        We don’t need health care reform. We need a new health care system. The best health care systems in the world which are also significantly cheaper than American healthcare are socialized. No amount of reform will ever allow us to approach them. It;s sad that so many people are delusional and believe a single payer system is a bad thing. I love the when people say they don’t want to have to pay for other people’s health care when they can’t afford it. They seem to forget that hospitals have to help everyone so they are already paying the costs. Yeah Obamacare isn’t the best, that’s more because it was forcefully dismantled and is a shell of the proposed system which would have been great.

  8. AllanG54 says:

    Healthcare is expensive but I’ve found over the years that for all the premiums I’ve paid and I would estimate that to be over $100,000 that I’ve made it back due to my daughter’s breast reduction, my heart attack, kidney stones and my wife’s hysterectomy, my son’s appendicitis and a few other illnesses and injuries so I’m about even.

  9. dush says:

    Young people just need to be more careful and live healthier.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      Yes. I will just do regular appendix stretches so it doesn’t burst.

      Are you really serious?

  10. craftman says:

    This thread is bound to explode in a minute so here’s my quick 2 cents:

    “Skimping on care can include failing to fill prescriptions, deciding not to get tests or treatments recommended by doctors, never going to see a doctor in the first place or skipping out on seeing specialists.”

    So if I don’t follow 100% of my doctor’s orders that is proof that health care is too expensive? Not arguing that it’s not, but I’m surprised – given how they defined the metric – that the number isn’t higher than 60%.

    ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE ALERT: I hurt my shoulder and went in to the doc to make sure it wasn’t the beginning of some long term problem that would get out of control. He said it was just bruised and would heal, but ordered more tests to make sure. I chose to take his word and it eventually went away. I AM THE 41%.

    • wade says:

      I too was surprised that the rate was only 41%.

      How to score this – I had a pretty tough sinus infection pester me for a few days, and I went to the doctor to make sure that I wasn’t dying. She said that it was viral and would eventually go away, but she could write me a prescription for antibiotics if I wanted. One of the grocery store pharmacies gives away generic antibiotics at no cost, but I decided not to bother, since I didn’t need them. AM I THE 41% OR THE 59%???

      • failurate says:

        I think the number should be quite a bit higher. I suspected the “not seeing a doctor at all for something that should be treated” number would be higher than 60%.

  11. j2.718ff says:

    ‘When it comes to medical advice, young adults are all fingers in the ears, “na na na I can’t hear you” as soon as the high cost of treatment comes up.’

    No, you couldn’t be more wrong about this! At least among people I know, it’s not pretending there isn’t a problem. It’s being unable to afford to fix it! If an MRI costs $1000, and I have $25 in the bank, that means the MRI costs $975 more than I can pay.

    Oh, or is this advice coming from the generation who believes in spending money they don’t have, and hoping their kids/grandkids will eventually foot the bill. Thanks, guys!

  12. SavijMuhdrox says:

    “As one doctor puts it, you twist your knee playing soccer and go to get an MRI, but if the doctor says you’re going to have to pay 50% of that cost, odds are you might decide to just skip it.”

    uh.. ice pack, pain-killer and good ol’ fashion time. The entire idea that you need to run to the doctor to get an MRI for every little thing is part of the reason we’re in this mess.

    • craftman says:

      +1 sir.

      People watch too much TV where every small injury turns into DEADLY VICIOUS CANCER AND LIFELONG DEBILITATING PAIN.

    • wade says:

      I agree 100%. My sister-in-law called 911 when my 7 year old nephew was jumping on the couch and fell off. My nephew just had the wind knocked out of him, but the bambalance had to show up and make sure.

      • thezone says:

        ok I don’t know exactly what happened to your nephew. But if he really had the wind knocked out of him 911 should have been called. When you have the wind knocked out of you you cannot breath. I had it happen twice in football and both trainers and the emts came out because I could not breath. Now if that happened to a small child the responsible thing to do is call 911 because there are other reasons your child may not be breathing. The last thing you want to happen is have it be more serious and you waited and the child ends up dead or with brain damage.

  13. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    even not as young adults – my roommate finally caved to “three weeks of wheezing/chest pressure/3 days unable to sleep/3 days of vomiting” by
    (a) using her catastrophic only coverage at the emergency room.
    but she (b) only filled one of the three prescriptions
    and (c) has no intention of following up with her primary care doctor in 2 weeks

    (a) she didn’t go to the primary care physician originally since she has to pay that out of pocket 100% and cannot afford it
    (b) the prescription she filled is on the target $4 list. the other 2 we checked out online and she called around – with no prescription coverage one of them is $45 and the other is $96 – again, she gets paid next week and has a low paying part time job so $96 is more than 10% of her net monthly income.
    (c) still cannot afford the out of pocket visit cost for primary care

  14. ajl1239 says:

    Time for single payer — young adults are crazy not to be demanding that big-profit insurers get Mitt Romney-style fired!

    • failurate says:

      I don’t understand your comment. Are you trying this out as some sort of test market for campaign slogans?

  15. Smiley Massacre says:

    Where I work we have a group health insurance plan which costs only $36 a month, which is perfectly fine by me.

  16. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    “If the law is struck down, the level of debt for young adults will continue to climb, and they will continue to worry about medical bills and not getting access to coverage,” said one survey author. “It all really compounds the difficulties young adults are facing at a really critical time given the economic environment.”

    I got news for you genius, that’s going to happen whether the law is struck down or not. Your political bias isn’t going to make it not happen if the law stands.


  17. LabGnome says:

    I hope that everything just fails at once so I don’t ruin (via finances) my loved ones lives.

    This is pretty much my attitude towards U.S. healthcare at the moment. I also think retirement is going to blow up too so I hope that I get old but somehow avoid ever having symptoms.

    Best healthcare in the world everyone.

  18. u1itn0w2day says:

    Not surprising. Beside the ‘invincibility factor’ starting pay in the working can’t pay for what mommy and daddy did while the little ones had no other major bills. This is part sticker shock and ignorance. I think stick shock gives young ones the most trouble especially when they’re working 40 hours plus and have trouble paying other bills along with medical ones.

  19. quieterhue says:

    That example made me laugh because in all likelihood the doctor was requesting an unnecessary MRI for something that could be solved with ice and rest. Of course, there are situations where if a doctor recommends a test or treatment, you are taking major risks if you don’t do it, but a twisted knee probably isn’t one of them. So at least in that example the young person was probably being wise in refusing the test.

    Personally I think our healthcare system is incredibly bloated. As a society we should focus on overall health–eating well, exercising, reducing stress, etc. That alone prevents a lot of disease. The rest (accidents, chronic illness, cancer, etc.) should be single payer. Nobody should have to go broke in order to save their own life. That’s just insane. But the rest of us should be using less resources. Like if you’re relatively young and healthy, you don’t need to go to the doctor every year for a physical. We don’t need to be running a zillion tests when the diagnosis is probably something obvious. Maybe that means there are fewer jobs in the medical field, but I’d be OK with that. Tons of unnecessary and invasive treatment does not make outcomes better, it usually makes them worse.

  20. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I’m not all that young anymore but overall am pretty healthy. I would tell the doctor about the knee, “Pretend we’re in the early 1970s, before there WAS an MRI. Now do whatever you would do if it didn’t exist.”

  21. Atherton says:

    Are “children” covered by Medicare under the 26 year old rule? My dad turned 65 when I was 24. I had my own insurance through work by then, but if I didn’t would my dad’s Medicare coverage (or it’s supplemental) have covered me too?

  22. Sound Money Girl says:

    Maybe everyone who unnecessarily requests an MRI should be asked if they would still want the test if they had to pay 50% of the cost. My 80-year-old doctor starts with the basics to see if those will resolve the issue before he orders pricey tests. He didn’t need an MRI to tell him I had tendonitis in the elbow. He needed to poke my elbow in a certain spot with his finger and see me grimace. When I reported extended fatigue, he didn’t send me for scans. He took a simple blood test and told me I was anemic.

    Despite what we see on House, when it comes to injuries and illnesses, the simplest diagnosis usually is the right one.

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      There’s this thing called a “deductible” and “coinsurance” that pretty much matches what you describe.

  23. smo0 says:

    I’m going to be 31 in July. I can’t afford health care and my employer doesn’t offer insurance.
    I had a difficult conversation with my mother the other night. I told her if I ended up being terminally ill or have cancer – I’d like myself die rather than leave my family with bills or rack up crap that will never get paid for all for sub standard health care and abandoned my half assed care for the uninsured. I’ll just go, rather than being stabbed to death and picked apart by needles.
    She said she’d never let it happen, but I said it was my decision.
    When I made this realization, I cried. I cried for a while – but then I was okay with it.
    For those who have insurance, awesome – for those who don’t – think about your choices and what you’d end up passing off to those left behind.
    It’s time to crack down, people. Realistic decisions.

    • chaelyc says:

      That’s where we’re at in my family. If my underemployed mom gets sick & the Jewish Federation won’t help, she dies. If her underemployed, boyfriend gets sick, he dies. The out of pocket insurance they can buy is astronomical & only covers a few office visits a year. Nobody will see you without an insurance card. I’m not even sure piling up a mountain of bills is an option if they won’t let you past the waiting room.

      People can act like “get on dad’s insurance” or “make healthy decisions” but if cancer sneaks up on anyone in my immediate family young or old & we live it will only be to spend the rest of our lives working to pay off the bills. Folks need to stop acting like their bright ideas are doing us a bunch of favors.

  24. chaelyc says:

    I “walked off” a fractured foot in 2008, just a few months after I graduated from college & lost my health insurance for the next 4 years. Just didn’t have the money to spare on X-rays & casts & god forbid surgery or lost wages. I knew they wouldn’t do anything but wrap it up & tell me to take it easy that wouldn’t cost me an arm & the rest of my leg so I wasn’t interested unless it became unbearable.

  25. Tacojelly says:

    My wife, 24 no insurance, almost let an abscess become a sepsis infection because she didn’t want to deal with a $2,000 bill.

    This is the “richest” nation in the world, and yet a graduate student at the top of her class almost contracted a fatal condition because she couldn’t afford the simple procedure required to correct it.

    There is not a doubt in my mind that we should be on a single-payer, universal health care system.

  26. DragonThermo says:

    I want to know more before I allow Obama to take my money at gunpoint to give them free healthcare.

    How many of the poor poor pitiful young adults sans insurance have expensive computers, smartphones, broadband data, expensive cars, big screen TVs? How many of them are in school or employed vs an unemployed Occuturd? How many have parents that they can go to to get on their family plan or to help pay for medical costs?

    If they put a higher priority on the latest iPod, iPhone, MacBook, plasma TV, etc., over their own healthcare, then it is not my responsibility to buy them free healthcare! Their poor choices do not give them a right to take my property or my liberty.

  27. dks64 says:

    I lost my insurance at 23, then got it back thanks to Obama. I turned 26 last month and I’m without insurance again. I just hope nothing happens to me, I can’t afford even minimum coverage right now. Being on my parents insurance, I was only an extra $80 a month. Health coverage should NOT be for the wealthy or poor only. What about the middle class?