Access to Care Did Not Improve During Strong Economy, Study Finds
Despite a strong economy, the number of Americans who did not seek or delayed receiving medical care failed to improve between 1997 and 2001, according to a new report from the Center for Studying Health System Change, the Wall Street Journal reports (Carroll, Wall Street Journal, 3/22). The report, based on results from HSC's Community Tracking Study Household survey that questioned 60,000 individuals in 33,000 families nationwide, found that the percentage of people who did not get needed care rose from 5.2% in 1997 to 5.8% in 2001, while the percentage of people who delayed care remained steady at about 9.8%. Nearly 62% of participants in both 1997 and 2001 cited cost as the primary reason for not seeking or delaying care (Center for Studying Health System Change release, 3/21). However, the percentage of children who did not seek or delayed receiving medical care declined from 6.3% in 1997 to 5.1% in 2001, a finding that the report attributed to the creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997 (Wall Street Journal, 3/22). HSC President Paul Ginsburg said, "This failure to improve people's access to health care during such good economic times is a bad omen. Access problems and consumer concerns about costs are likely to increase in light of the weaker economy." People who were uninsured, from low-income families or in poor health were less likely to receive needed medical care, according to the report. In addition, the survey found that Americans experienced problems scheduling and getting timely physician appointments, having providers accept their health plans and getting plans to pay for services (HSC release, 3/21). Although the report, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, did not "advocat[e] a solution to these problems," it did note that legislative proposals such as giving tax credits to people to buy health insurance or building more community health centers with federal money are being considered (Wall Street Journal, 3/22). The full report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.