The high cost of health care is hurting everyone, with parents forgoing taking their sick kids to the doctor even if they have health insurance and make enough money to cover the cost, according to a new study from researchers at UW-Madison.

A research team from the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health said the cost of health care relative to a family's income, plus having a child with a limitation such as asthma, autism or obesity, can make families put off needed medical care.

The findings were presented on Sunday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver, and were released on Tuesday by the UW-Madison news service.

The research team was headed by doctoral student and graduate research assistant Lauren Wisk.

"Families aren't choosing to spend their money on going to the doctor when someone is sick because of how much it cost them to see the doctor the last time," Wisk said in the release. "They are sacrificing their health because it costs too much to be healthy."

The team looked at data from six years' worth of surveys on 6,273 families with at least one child.

Excessive financial burden was defined as a family using at least 10 percent of its income on insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health care expenses, and delayed or forgone care was defined as putting off or going without treatment or prescription medication because of the cost.

The study showed families experiencing excessive financial burdens, having a child with an ongoing limitation and a parent with intermittent insurance all increased the chances health care would be delayed or not used.

"Every U.S. family has a finite amount of resources available, and every day decisions have to be made how to allocate those resources," Wisk said. "This study shows the unfortunate reality of the situation."

More research is planned to see how delaying or forgoing care affects health down the road.

"We expect that if people aren't getting the care they need, they will be sicker as a result," Wisk said.

"When you put this all together, the cost of health care in the U.S. could actually be causing Americans to be sicker."

 

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