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Poll Finds Americans Say Health Care Costs Their Most Pressing Financial Problem

May 31, 2019 by Dan McCue

Americans are more likely to name healthcare costs than any other issue when asked to say what is the most important financial problem facing their family, a recent Gallup poll found.

In a survey conducted April 17-30, 17 percent of respondents named health care costs as their family’s greatest financial concern, followed by lack of money/low wages (11 percent) and college expenses, the cost of owning a home and taxes, which tied at 8 percent.

In 2018, lack of money/low wages topped the  list of concerns at 13 percent, followed by health care costs (12 percent) and too much debt/lack of money to pay bills, at 11 percent.

The latest Gallup survey comes at a time of general economic confidence, when relatively few Americans name economic matters as the most important problem facing the country.

Consistent with this sunny financial outlook, 20% of Americans said that they do not have a “most important financial problem.”

That is one of the highest percentages responding “none” in Gallup’s 14-year trend on the question, surpassed only by the 21% who said so in a February 2005 poll.

Gallup has asked the “most important family financial problem” question on 48 separate occasions since 2005.

During that time, only three issues — healthcare costs, energy costs/oil and gas prices and lack of money/low wages — have topped the list in any single poll.

Healthcare costs typically vied with energy costs as the top problem before the Great Recession, largely dependent on the price of gasoline.

This included a record-high 29% mentioning gas prices in July 2008, when gasoline prices averaged over $4 per gallon nationwide.

But in the ensuing periods of high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery between 2009 and 2014, lack of money or low wages was most often the No. 1 personal financial problem.

Healthcare costs have ranked first in two of the past three surveys, and have been at least tied for first in each poll since 2014.

Mentions of energy costs have dwindled in recent years as gas prices have been lower, and in the current survey, no respondent cited energy costs as the most important financial problem.

Healthcare is the most commonly mentioned financial challenge for key subgroups and is especially likely to be named by older Americans. Twenty-five percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 64, and 23% of those aged 65 and older, say healthcare costs are the biggest problem for their family’s finances.

Healthcare ties for first among adults younger than 50, who are about as likely to name lack of money, college expenses and housing costs as their greatest financial challenges. The youngest adults — those under age 30 — also commonly mention debt and the high cost of living.

Retirement savings are a greater concern for those in the pre-retirement years (aged 50 to 64), but something few young adults or senior citizens view as a problem.

Americans at different income levels are about equally likely to name healthcare as the most important financial problem, with between 17% and 19% in each income group doing so. Lack of money is, not surprisingly, a much greater concern for lower-income Americans.

Upper- and middle-income Americans are more inclined to cite college expenses, taxes and retirement savings as their chief financial challenges.

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