Study Looks at Barriers to Health Care for the Homeless
Insured homeless individuals report fewer barriers to outpatient care and better adherence to prescription drug regimens than their counterparts without coverage, according to a University of California-San Francisco study released Tuesday (AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/10). In the study, "Factors Associated with the Health Care Utilization of Homeless Persons," researchers analyzed 2,974 Census Bureau interviews with homeless individuals in urban, suburban and rural areas conducted for the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients. Appearing in the in the Jan. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that 55.6% of respondents lacked health coverage, and 26.7% had "no contact" with a provider in the past year. Insured homeless individuals were more likely than those lacking insurance to seek care from sources other than emergency rooms. While health care "competes with more immediate needs" such as food and shelter for all homeless people, study co-author Dr. Margot Kushel called the lack of insurance an "important barrier" to health care (UCSF release, 1/9). The results support previous studies that found that homeless individuals with insurance are likely to seek care for chronic illnesses "if they are given the option" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/10).
In addition, UCSF researchers analyzed interviews from 663 homeless veterans and found that, while 90% were eligible for health insurance, 48.4% lacked coverage. Only 26.8% of the respondents had VA insurance. "These data suggest that improving insurance rates among homeless veterans will require not only expansion of eligibility, but also improvements in identifying and enrolling those who qualify," Kushel said (UCSF release, 1/9).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.