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High insurance deductibles force many people to delay or forgo treatment
Jeffrey R. Lewis

As the holidays and new year approach, the crisis of rising costs of living is forcing many to choose between holiday cheer and basic needs.


Even more concerning, Legacy Health Endowment asks, “Is your health insurance forcing you to hold off getting needed health care?”


Recently, an LHE-commissioned poll found that people forced to pay $2,000 or more annually for health insurance deductibles often postpone or reconsider healthcare treatment for themselves or a family member for fear they can’t afford it, according to our survey of Merced and Stanislaus County residents. More than half (60%) of people with high deductibles – defined as $2,000 or more – and even nearly one-half (45%) of those with lower deductibles worry they can’t afford those out-of-pocket costs.


The survey reveals how many families continue to struggle to balance the costs of day-to-day living with healthcare expenses that force them to make difficult – and often dangerous - choices.


The healthcare narrative is often couched in terms of ‘coverage’ and the ‘covered.’ Yet costs continue to skyrocket for California’s working families, and some of these costs are hidden … but nevertheless acute.


Some key takeaways from the survey:


The impacts of out-of-pocket costs directly affect decisions about whether to access healthcare or not:


·         Nearly a majority (45%) of those with high deductibles say concern about out-of-pocket costs has caused them to postpone or even reconsider healthcare treatment for them or a family member.

·         Over a majority (62%) of those with high deductibles feel more anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed from their concern about out-of-pocket healthcare expenses (this skyrockets to 78% of those with high deductibles and a chronic disease condition).


The stress of having to weigh the affordability of healthcare causes profound and nearly universal impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional health of respondents and their family members:


·         More than three-quarters (80%) of those with high deductibles say postponing or reconsidering this treatment has had a large effect on their own overall physical health; 86% say it has a large effect on their own overall mental and emotional health.

·         Just over nine-in-ten (91%) of those with high deductibles say postponing or reconsidering this treatment has had a large effect on the overall physical health of that family member; 86.0% say it has had a large effect on the overall mental and emotional health of that family member.


In this research, we expected to find a significant delta in impact separating those with ‘high’ deductibles from those with ‘low’ deductibles. While this proved true, those with ‘low’ deductibles also experience higher-than-anticipated negative impacts and consequences driven by out-of-pocket costs.


This high ‘baseline’ sets the framework for even greater negative impacts and consequences felt by those with high deductibles. These, in turn, are even worse for those who either have themselves – or who have family members who have – chronic disease conditions.


Respondents placed great importance on finding resources to help defray these out-of-pocket costs, yet they feel there is nowhere to turn in California.


Ultimately, the survey found that eight-in-ten (80%) of those with high deductibles would support a local effort that takes direct action to reduce annual out-of-pocket deductible costs. This increases to 88% of those with high deductibles and chronic conditions.


Economic challenges continue to mount for working women, men, and their families. Buying a gallon of milk or gas is a real financial dilemma for many. The price of a Thanksgiving turkey or ham is still out of reach for far too many local residents.


We have two programs at Tower Pharmacy on 501 E. Olive Ave., where you can fill your prescription medications for $2 or your insulin for $2. Tower also offers a flu vaccine program that Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation are underwriting if your private insurance will not cover it.


As we develop more programs and solutions, it would be great to hear from you. Please email me at and share what healthcare problem you need help with. Please include your name and telephone number.


—      Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation. The views expressed are his own.