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Rising Costs Replace Pandemic Concerns As Top Reason Americans Defer Healthcare

Last updated:  November 7, 2022

31% of consumers said they deferred healthcare in 2022 because of costs, and 26% chose not to fill a prescription 

PROVO, Utah & SEATTLE (Nov. 7, 2022) – Cost concerns increasingly outweighed worries about the pandemic as the top reason Americans deferred healthcare, according to a new study by Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM), the leader and creator of the experience management category. Between 2020 and 2022 the share of consumers deferring care because of pandemic-related health concerns decreased by 11 percentage points from 28% to 17% while the share of consumers deferring care because of cost concerns grew by four percentage points from 27% to 31%. 

At a time of record inflation rates and an uncertain economy, more consumers are facing the need to make spending trade-offs. High cost of healthcare services (46%) and higher costs of living overall (43%) are by far the most common reasons consumers chose to delay healthcare, over reasons like lack of medical insurance (12%), according to the Qualtrics research. Beyond delaying healthcare, over a quarter (26%) of consumers in the study chose not to fill a prescription in the past 12 months because of the cost. 

Nearly half (48%) of consumers said they deferred the care they needed in 2020. In 2022, the number has improved slightly, to 43%. Nutrition-related care, routine preventative appointments and mental healthcare were the most common types of care people said they chose to skip. Furthermore, over one-third (36%) of respondents said they had taken on debt to pay for healthcare. At the same time, 43% said they are unlikely to seek care if it means taking on debt. 

“If people can’t afford to access care in the first place, then not only are they having a poor experience, but we will never fully realize the health outcomes in our communities that we aspire to,” said Qualtrics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adrienne Boissy. “While encouraging that people feel more comfortable seeking the care they need, the cost barrier to care during these tenuous economic times is worrisome. It reinforces the need to hear from our communities and provide access in the channels that work for the populations that need us the most. This research further emphasizes the need to constantly listen with intention and to design solutions with our patients.”

Healthcare avoidance worsens health conditions, which has implications on the costs of care in the long-run. A JAMA study found medical debt has a direct link to social determinants of health that are related to worse outcomes for patients. Medical debt also is linked to inequities in healthcare, including a racial wealth gap and a racial health gap. Deferring care – including foregoing medication – will ultimately lead to worse outcomes for patients and cost the healthcare industry more money in the long-term. Improving the accessibility of healthcare is essential to improving the patient experience and broader community health outcomes. 


This study was fielded in August-September 2022. Respondents were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 18 years of age and working full-time. The total number of respondents was more than 1,000.

About Qualtrics XM for Healthcare

Qualtrics helps healthcare and life sciences organizations design experiences that improve satisfaction, loyalty and trust. Qualtrics helps organizations deliver a seamless and compassionate healthcare experience by optimizing the moments that matter most to patients, employees and communities. Qualtrics delivers the most comprehensive platform for strategic experience management, helping healthcare organizations listen to patients and employees on their terms, uncover what matters most and act quickly to create meaningful impact. In doing so, experience data can be paired with quality, operational and financial data to articulate real value. The AI-powered solutions help leaders understand the key drivers of patient and employee behavior, predict what they want and automate actions that make it faster, easier and more efficient to personalize experiences at scale. Qualtrics is a CMS-approved vendor for all required CAHPS programs, and the only HITRUST-certified and FEDRAMP-compliant experience management platform on the market, so organizations can confidently collect and analyze data knowing sensitive information is secure. To learn more, please visit 

About Qualtrics

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is changing the way organizations manage and improve the four core experiences of business—customer, employee, product and brand. Over 16,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics to listen, understand and take action on experience data (X-data™)—the beliefs, emotions and intentions that tell you why things are happening, and what to do about it. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action that helps businesses attract customers who stay longer and buy more, engage employees who build a positive culture, develop breakthrough products people love and build a brand people are passionate about. To learn more, please visit 

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Media Contact:

Geraldine Lim