One in Five Kentucky Working-age Adults Delay or Skip Health Care Due to Cost

One in five Kentucky adults delayed or went without medical care in 2016 due to cost, according to a report released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.  Additionally, almost one in four went without dental care, and nearly one in five skipped prescription medications due to cost, the report said.

“Too many Kentuckians continue to delay or skip health care because the cost is just not in their budget, and they’re probably hoping the decision won’t undermine their health,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “But we know that delaying or forgoing routine and preventive care doesn’t save money in the long run, and it certainly doesn’t result in better health outcomes. Access to health care is critical to improving Kentucky’s health, and we simply have to do better.”

The report, the latest from an ongoing study of the impact of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky commissioned by the Foundation, includes the results of a spring 2016 Kentucky Health Reform Survey of non-elderly Kentucky adults. According to the report, while 20.5 percent of Kentucky adults overall delayed or skipped medical care due to cost, the percentage rose to 29.4 for those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($33,534 for a family of four in 2016).

The report also analyzes data from several other sources regarding health coverage, access to care, cost of care, quality of care and health outcomes.  According to the report, nearly two in five Kentuckians reported trouble paying their medical bills in 2014. That ratio was down from nearly half the state’s population in 2012. Although Kentucky’s progress in this measure outpaced eight surrounding states – and was nearly four times greater than the national rate of improvement ? a significantly larger share of Kentucky’s population still struggled to pay for health care than did Americans overall in 2014, the report said.

“Kentucky has achieved one of the nation’s largest reductions in the number of uninsured since 2012, and we’re starting to see small progress in a few key health measures,” Chandler said.  “Reducing the number of people unable to pay for health care, a slight reduction in cigarette use among adults, and more people taking advantage of preventive health care services are all positives that will improve our health statistics in years to come. But right now, Kentucky remains one of the unhealthiest states in terms of smoking, obesity, heart disease and cancer. The Foundation, moving forward, must support policy changes that will lead to critical improvements in these numbers. Kentuckians deserve that and we need a healthier workforce in order to compete.”

Other health care cost and access findings included in the 2016 Semi-Annual Report of the Study of the Impact of the ACA Implementation in Kentucky:

  • Of  Kentucky adults ages 18-64 who reported delaying or skipping care due to cost in 2016:
    • The uninsured were more than twice as likely to do so compared with Kentuckians overall;
    • Three times as many who described their health as poor delayed or went without care as those who said their health was excellent;
    • Almost one in five went without prescribed medications.
  • Of Kentuckians who remain uninsured in 2016, 56.2 percent said it was too expensive or they could not afford it; 17 percent indicated reasons that suggested they were not interested in obtaining coverage; while 25 percent indicated reasons that suggested they were not opposed to obtaining insurance.
  • Almost half (48.1 percent) of Kentucky adults surveyed in 2016 had insurance through the private sector; 44.2 percent had group health insurance through an employer, and the remainder purchased insurance in the individual market. Those more likely to have private coverage were white, married, employed, had at least some college, or had incomes greater than 201 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Residents of Northern Kentucky (61.5 percent), the Lexington area (56.1 percent) were more likely to have private coverage, while residents of Eastern Kentucky (35.5 percent) were less likely, compared to the state overall. The Louisville area (48.8 percent) and Western Kentucky (47.6 percent) had rates of private coverage similar to the state rate.
  • 41 percent of Kentucky non-elderly adults were on public health insurance programs (such as military coverage, Medicaid and Medicare for the disabled).
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Ben Keeton

Publisher at Medical News
Ben is the publisher of Medical News and focuses on the business of healthcare in Kentucky.
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