Nearly half of lower- and middle-income adults struggle to pay their dental and healthcare bills, underscoring latent issues with health equity in this country, according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
This comes in stark contrast with the highest income bracket that earns more than $500,000 and makes up 1 percent of the US population. Only about one in ten of these top-earners say they have trouble paying for their medical bills, according to the survey of 1,885 individuals. Fifty-seven percent of low-income and 48 percent of middle-income adults say they have trouble paying for their medical bills.
These healthcare disparities, which the survey showed also extend to food and housing access, mark a need for health policy change, RWJF President and CEO Rich Besser said in a press release.
“It is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours that so many people lack sufficient income to pay for health care, housing or even food,” Besser asserted. “We need to address income inequality if we truly want everyone to have a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible.”
Seven in ten survey respondents across all income levels agreed having a higher income makes it easier to access and pay for healthcare. Nearly half of the top 1 percent and over half of lower-income adults (those making less than $35,000 annually) said it is unfair that higher income earners can obtain better medical care.
And nearly everyone agrees the government needs to intervene to address these disparities. Over half of all respondents regardless of income said it should be a governmental priority to address income inequality and make insurance accessible for everyone, although more low-income respondents (71 percent) support this than the wealthiest respondents do (53 percent).
Income is also impacting the way patients perceive healthcare and their experiences with public health and their own wellness. Specifically, individuals with different incomes harbor different health concerns.