KFF Health Tracking Poll - September 2020: Top Issues in 2020 Election, The Role of Misinformation, and Views on A Potential Coronavirus Vaccine

These additional findings were released October 1.

In previous KFF surveys, large shares of public have reported putting off or postponing different types of care due to cost. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., many hospitals and medical offices have had to close for periods of time, limited capacity, and many elective procedures have been postponed. Moreover, with adults across the nation urged to social distance, the coronavirus pandemic and its related safety concerns have kept many adults from seeking medical and dental care. The September KFF Health Tracking Poll asks people whether they have put off medical care for any reason in the past six months, and then drills down to find out the reasons why people may have skipped or postponed care, the type of care that was skipped, and whether they anticipate getting the delayed care in the coming months. Compared to June, fewer people now report skipping care due coronavirus-related office closures and safety concerns, suggesting that as medical offices have reopened, some people are now getting care they postponed earlier this year. However, the ongoing outbreak – along with concerns over the cost and affordability of care – continue to keep some adults from seeking the medical and dental care they may need.

Four In Ten Adults Say Someone In Their Household Skipped Or Postponed Care

As the country continues to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its public health and economic impacts, four in ten adults (42%) say that they or a family member living in their household skipped or postponed some type of medical or dental care in the past six months (including 18% who say they personally skipped or postponed care, 7% who say it was only a family member, and 17% who say both they and a family member).

When asked what type of care they or a family member skipped or postponed, 13% say it was dental care only, 8% say it was only medical care, and one in five (21%) say they or family member skipped both dental and medical care. Notably, about one-third of those who say they or a family member skipped or postponed care (14% of all adults) report a worsening condition as a result.

Figure 1: Four In Ten Say They Or A Family Member Have Skipped Or Postponed Medical Or Dental Care In The Past Six Months

People report different reasons for skipping or postponing care. Most commonly, 28% say they or a family member skipped or postponed care because the medical facility was closed or offering limited appointments, followed by 21% who say it was because they felt unsafe visiting a medical facility during the coronavirus outbreak. Amidst a coronavirus related economic recession and with unemployment currently at 8.4 percent, 17% of adults say they or a family member skipped or delayed care because they couldn’t afford it or were concerned about the cost. Previous KFF research indicates that this may be an underestimation of the true share of adults who are delaying care or relying on over-the-counter or home remedies to treat conditions instead of seeking care.

Fewer Say They Have Skipped Care Due To Coronavirus-related Closures or fears

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to have an impact on people seeking medical and dental care, survey trends indicate that as many medical facilities re-open with safety precautions in place, fewer people are now skipping care for coronavirus-related reasons compared to earlier this summer. The share of adults who say they or a family member skipped or postponed care due to office closures has decreased by 15 percentage points since June (28%, down from 43%). Similarly, the share who say they or a family member skipped or postponed medical or dental care because they felt unsafe seeking care during the coronavirus outbreak is also down from June (21%, down from 27%).

Figure 2: Fewer Adults Now Report Postponing Care Due To Coronavirus-Related Medical Office And Facility Closures, Safety Concerns

Groups that tend to go to the doctor more routinely are also the groups that have higher shares saying they put off care for coronavirus-related reasons. Women are more likely than men to put off care either because of office closures or because they felt unsafe going to an appointment during the pandemic, and the same is true for people living in households with chronic medical conditions and those with health insurance, compared to those without. On the other hand, younger adults, who typically go to the doctor less often, report lower levels of putting off care for coronavirus-related reasons.

Figure 3: Women, Insured Adults, Households With Chronic Condition More Likely To Report Skipped Care Due Office Closures, Feeling Unsafe

Cost Concerns Keep About One In Five Women, Younger Adults, from Getting Medical or Dental Care

While coronavirus-related medical office closures and fear about the safety of visiting medical office is contributing to number of people delaying getting care, cost also continues to be a factor, and affects a different segment of the population than those skipping care for coronavirus-related reasons. Overall, 17% of adults say the inability to afford the care or concern about the cost was a reason they skipped or postponed getting medical or dental care in the last six months. Notably, adults under age 65 and those with lower household incomes are more likely than their counterparts to say they or a family member have delayed getting care due to cost concerns. Women are more likely than men to say they or family member have skipped or postponed care due to cost.

Figure 4: Younger Adults, Women, And Those With Lower Incomes Are More Likely To Say They Or A Family Member Skipped Care Due To Cost

Though coronavirus and cost concerns are contributing to some delays in people getting the medical or dental care they need, most of those who say they or a family member skipped or postponed care say they expect to get the care within the next year. Indeed, 10% say they or a family member have already gotten the care that was postponed while nearly half (46%) say they expect to get the care within the next 3 months. Just 6% of those who said they or someone in their household delayed getting medical or dental care say they do not expect to get the care that was skipped or postponed.

Figure 5: Nearly Half Of Those Who Skipped Or Postponed Care Say They Expect To Get Needed Care In The Next Three Months

The Election and Coronavirus Methodology

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.