Umbrella and paper cutout figureAs one might expect, the percentage of delayed care was highestamong the lowest paid—among households earning less than $40,000annually.

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The highest percentage of Americans since Gallup started askingthe question are letting serious medical conditions go withoutcare, because they can't afford it.

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That's according to a new Gallup report, which finds that 25 percent ofrespondents say they've foregone medical care because of the costfor a serious condition—up from 19 percent a year ago andreflecting a near-50 percent increase in that number since Gallupbegan asking about it in 2001. And that can have seriousrepercussions for the economy.

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Says the report, "Such delays in medical treatment, whether forinjuries, illnesses or chronic conditions, can have significantimplications for the economy and health care system, but also thepolitical climate." Some of those implications includereduced productivity and increased health care costs—adouble-whammy that will have a notable impact on the economy.

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Related: Over half of your Social Security will go to healthcare costs–and it's going to get worse

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And while it's to be expected that lower-income families areskipping care, and probably too that peoplewith pre-existing conditions are among the procrastinators,Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say that they'veheld off treatments because of care cost. That's up 12 points since2018 among Democrats, the report says, compared with three- andfive-point increases among Republicans and independents,respectively.

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Less serious conditions came in for delays, too, raising theoverall percentage of postponed care to 33 percent (a high tiedwith 2014). And as one might expect, the percentage of delayed carewas highest among the lowest paid—among households earning lessthan $40,000 annually, 36 percent—a rise of 13 points from2018—said they delayed getting treated for a serious healthcondition.

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In addition, a third of U.S. adults say their family couldn'tafford care in the last year—and the problem doesn't appear to betied to being uninsured, since the report also finds that thepercentage of uninsured is 11 percent in the poll; that's withinthe 9–11 percent range the poll has reflected annually since 2015.In addition, the percentage delaying care is up by a similarproportion among those covered by private health insurance orMedicare/Medicaid as well as among the uninsured.

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The Hill points out that there's a 23-percentage-pointincome gap in Americans delaying treatment in 2019, though early inthe Obama administration the income gap averaged 17 points. Thatgap narrowed to an average of 11 points from 2015 to 2018 after thefirst few years of the Affordable Care Act implementation,according to Gallup.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.