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July 01, 2008

Californians Not Getting the Health Care They Need

Call them stoic, call them cost-conscious, call them under- or uninsured...but almost 20 percent of the U.S. population either went without or delayed needed medical care at sometime during 2007. That figure is up from 14 percent in 2003, and if you are counting, is an additional 9.5 million Americans who didn't get the medical care they needed in 2007.

People had numerous reasons why they had postponed or had completely forgone medical care for themselves during the year. Chief among them was out-of-pocket medical costs and deductibles they couldn't afford to pay, followed by a list that included things like a lack of acceptable clinic hours of operation, difficulty getting to clinics during working hours, problems with doctors being overbooked that resulted in difficulty getting timely appointments, and doctors and hospitals not accepting their insurance plans.

It wasn't just people without medical insurance that were avoiding medical visits, but both people with and without insurance that were either delaying or forgoing medical care, according to a random national phone survey. The survey was conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan policy group, who called 18,000 people, with a 43 percent response rate.

The study's lead author, Peter Cunningham, noted that as health care costs increase, a larger share of cost, often in the form of higher deductibles, is being shifted to people and families, requiring them to pay more out of their own pockets. "To the extent that health insurance cost increases are passed on to individuals, continued declines in access to care are inevitable," wrote the co-authors of the study.

Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurance-industry trade group, feels that a variety of issues need to be addressed by policy makers to make surgery, medical imaging, and specialty drugs more affordable to the general public, and to standardize quality of care among providers. The cost of drugs and services has risen at a rate at least twice that of inflation for several years, making it more difficult for even those with health insurance to pay for medical care.

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Posted by healthinsurance at July 1, 2008 01:13 PM