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Washingtonians Struggle to Afford High Health Care Costs

Elected leaders must make addressing healthcare costs a top priority

Many Washington residents say they worry about being able to afford health care and are looking to lawmakers to address the health care cost crisis, according to survey results presented at yesterday’s meeting of the Washington State Health Care Cost and Transparency Board. The survey of more than 1,300 Washingtonians across the state shows that 81% report being worried about affording health care, 62% have had at least one healthcare affordability burden over the last year, and 56% delayed or went without health care because of cost.

“Unchecked hospital and pharmaceutical company prices are driving up our health care costs. It’s time to hold health care players accountable when their pricing behavior is out of line,” says Sam Hatzenbeler, Senior Policy Associate at the Economic Opportunity Institute. “The U.S. spends more money than any other country on health care–double what our peer countries spend. But we’re at the bottom when it comes to access, outcomes, and efficiency. Until we regulate what companies are allowed to charge, we can expect more of the same.” Of those surveyed, 82% expressed support for setting limits on growth in health care spending and penalizing payers or providers that fail to comply.

The survey also revealed differences in how Washington respondents experience healthcare affordability burdens by income, insurance type, age, race, ethnicity and disability status. Unsurprisingly, respondents at the lowest end of the income spectrum most frequently reported experiencing one or more healthcare affordability burdens, with nearly three-quarters of those earning less than $50,000 per year struggling to afford some aspect of coverage or care in the past 12 months. Respondents of color reported higher rates of rationing medication due to cost when compared to white respondents.

Of those surveyed, 73% said they believe the U.S. health care system needs to change. Elected leaders and other stakeholders need to make addressing healthcare costs and the consumer burden a top priority.

The survey by Altarum, a nonprofit organization working to advance health through research, and its Healthcare Value Hub, was conducted between August 6, 2022 and August 13, 2022 and was designed to elicit respondents’ unbiased views on a wide range of health system issues, including confidence using the health system, financial burden, and views on policy solutions.

Read the press release.

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