More Than One in Five U.S. Residents Cite Cost as Access to Care Issue, Study Finds
More than one in five U.S. residents last year reported having difficulty accessing health services, in large part because of cost, according to a study in the current issue of Health Affairs. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund conducted telephone interviews with residents of five countries -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States -- in April and May 2001 to assess public attitudes toward health care. With the exception of the United States, all of the countries have universal health care systems. The study found that the United States "generally ranks at the bottom among the five countries on most indicators of patient views and experiences" (Health Affairs release, 5/14). Some of the study's findings include:
- 21% of U.S. citizens reported having difficulty paying medical bills, compared to 12% of New Zealanders, 11% of Australians, 7% of Canadians and 3% of Britons.
- 24% of U.S. respondents reported foregoing needed medical care because of cost, compared to 20% of New Zealanders, 11% of Australians, 5% of Canadians and 3% of Britons.
- 26% of U.S. respondents said they did not fill a prescription because of cost concerns, compared to 19% of Australians, 15% of New Zealanders, 13% of Canadians and 7% of U.K. residents.
- 35% of U.S. residents reported having problems paying their medical bills, compared to 20% of New Zealanders, 17% of Australians, 14% of Canadians and 4% of U.K. residents.
- 36% of U.S. residents did not visit a doctor for needed care because of cost concerns, compared to 24% of New Zealanders, 14% of Australians, 9% of Canadians and 4% of U.K. residents.
- 39% of U.S. residents did not fill a prescription because of cost, compared to 22% of Canadians, 21% of Australians, 20% of New Zealanders and 7% of Britons (Blendon et al., "Inequities In Health Care: A Five-Country Survey," Health Affairs, May/June 2002).
Cathy Schoen, study co-author and vice president for health policy, research and evaluation for the Commonwealth Fund, said, "When it comes to health care in the U.S., the experiences of lower-income people differ markedly from those with higher incomes on most measures of access, quality, and financial burden" (Health Affairs release, 5/14). The complete study is available online.
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