April 2 (UPI) -- Americans are borrowing billions of dollars to pay for healthcare or are skipping medical treatment altogether as costs keep rising, researchers said Tuesday.
Last year, Americans borrowed about $88 billion to pay for care, while 25 percent went without treatment because for financial reasons, the Gallup survey found.
"Relative to the quality of the care they receive, Americans overwhelmingly agree they pay too much, and receive too little, and few have confidence that elected officials can solve the problem," Gallup said. "More than three-quarters of Americans are also concerned that high healthcare costs could cause significant and lasting damage to the U.S. economy."
Other key findings by Gallup show 45 percent of Americans say they worry a major health event could lead to bankruptcy. There's also a partisan divide -- with 67 percent of Republicans saying healthcare is among the best in the world. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats agreed.
Another major problem with healthcare is the lack of transparency, the survey said. Forty-seven percent of Americans said they don't know what an emergency room visit would cost and 41 percent didn't visit an emergency room when they needed to. And most respondents added that they aren't too confident lawmakers will reach a bipartisan agreement on the issue.
The report said lower income residents are more likely to skip medical treatment, but even more affluent households defer healthcare because of the financial cost, said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health, which worked with Gallup on the survey.
"Lower income brackets had the most fear," Lash told USA Today. "That fear persisted even for those we would associate with the middle class and upper middle class. It's not just those living at or slightly above poverty that are concerned. It's even the more affluent among us."
Tuesday's report comes a day after Gallup reported healthcare is the chief concern of most Americans -- with 55 percent saying they worry "a great deal" about its availability and affordability.