Survey: Fewer Consumers Delay Treatment, but Disparities Still Exist
The percentage of U.S. residents who are having difficulty paying for medical care has declined for the first time in a decade, according to a Commonwealth Fund survey released Thursday, the New York Times' "The Upshot" reports (Sanger-Katz, "The Upshot," New York Times, 1/15).
Researchers from Princeton Survey Research conducted the Commonwealth Fund's latest biennial health survey from July 22, 2014, to Dec. 14, 2014. The survey included responses from 4,251 adults ages 19 to 64.
Overall, the survey found that the percentage of U.S. residents who faced financial difficulty in paying for medical care declined to 36% in 2014 from 43% in 2012, according to the AP/Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, the survey also found that the percentage of U.S. residents who received treatment but had difficulty paying the bill declined from 41% in 2012 to 35% in 2014 (AP/Wall Street Journal, 1/15). In addition, the study found that between 2012 and 2014 the percentage of U.S. residents who:
- Did not see a professional for a medical problem within the last year declined to 23% from 29%;
- Did not fill a prescription declined to 19% from 27%; and
- Did not seek necessary specialist care declined to 13% from 20% (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 1/14).
According to Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins, the decrease in the number of U.S. residents struggling to pay medical bills is related to an increase in the number of U.S. residents with health insurance ("The Upshot," New York Times, 1/15).
Survey Highlights Continuing Issues
While fewer U.S. residents are struggling to pay medical bills, the survey found there still are issues with access to care and affordability, especially among low-income U.S. residents (Los Angeles Times, 1/14). For example, the survey found that 33% of U.S. residents with health insurance who had incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level put off necessary care because of costs.
The survey also found a disparity in access to care between residents in states that expanded their Medicaid programs and those in states that did not. In states that did not expand their Medicaid programs, 35% of adults with incomes below poverty level remained uninsured, compared with 19% of adults with incomes below poverty level in states that did expand their programs.
Results also show racial disparities in coverage. For example, 34% of Latinos and 18% of blacks were uninsured in 2014, compared with 10% of whites (AP/Wall Street Journal, 1/15).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.