|WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 13% of American adults — or about 34 million people — report knowing of at least one friend or family member in the past five years who died after not receiving needed medical treatment because they were unable to pay for it, based on a new study by Gallup and West Health. Nonwhites, those in lower-income households, those younger than 45, and political independents and Democrats are all more likely to know someone who has died under these circumstances.These data are based on surveys with 1,099 U.S. adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, conducted Sept. 16-30, 2019. Respondents were asked, “Has there been a time in the last five years when a friend or family member passed away after not receiving treatment for their condition due to their inability to pay for it?” These results are not meant to quantify the number of people who have died after not being able to pay for medical treatment, including prescription drugs, but rather the number of people who report knowledge of a death under such circumstances. In all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 2.8 million persons died in 2017 in the U.S. across all causes.
Dovetailing with these results is a rising percentage of adults who report not having had enough money in the past 12 months to “pay for needed medicine or drugs that a doctor prescribed” to them. This percentage has increased significantly, from 18.9% in January 2019 to 22.9% in September. In all, the 22.9% represents about 58 million adults who experienced “medication insecurity,” defined as the inability to pay for prescribed medication at least one time in the past 12 months. The increase reflects a marked rise among women of over five percentage points to 27.5%, widening the gender gap to over nine points when compared with the 18.1% rate for men. And while data among both political independents and Republicans are statistically unchanged since September, medication insecurity among Democrats has risen over six points to 27.7%.