Health care increasingly out of reach for millions of Americans

By Phil Galewitz for Kaiser Health News

Having trouble finding a doctor?

You’re not alone.

Tens of millions of adults under age 65 – both those with insurance and those without – saw their access to health care worsen dramatically over the past decade, according to a study abstract released Monday.

The findings suggest that more privately insured Americans are delaying treatment because of rising out-of-pocket costs, while safety-net programs for the poor and uninsured are failing to keep up with demand for care, say Urban Institute researchers who wrote the report.

Overall, the study published in the journal Health Affairs found that one in five American adults under 65 had an “unmet medical need” because of costs in 2010, compared with one in eight in 2000. They also had a harder time accessing dental care, according to the analysis based on data from annual federal surveys of adults.

“For decades, Americans have been facing costs rising well above wage levels,” said Lynn Quincy, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, a nonpartisan group. “These are real families. . . . It’s very concerning.”

The 2010 health care law, which will expand health coverage to 30 million people starting in 2014, won’t necessarily solve all those access problems, the study said. That’s because the law, which is under review by the Supreme Court, may not alter the trend toward private insurance policies with larger deductibles and higher co-payments or address some of the barriers within public coverage. While the law does increase payments temporarily to primary care doctors who see people covered by Medicaid, it will not force more doctors into the program, or require states to provide dental coverage to adults.

Quincy noted that the law does offer several new strategies, such as new payment methods to control rising costs, which could help improve access, but there’s no guarantee they will work.

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  1. Daniel Murphy on May 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    The more I learn about these disparities in our ‘free market’ healthcare system, I realize through this ‘free’,yet prohibitive system, we have endorsed true discrimination. Upon honest analysis we have to accept this is a corporate model of flagrant moral-ethical turpitude on a scale that dwarfs slavery, womens’sufferage and the civil rights struggle. It is difficult to imagine a country that allows corporations a rubric of such radical power to determine what measure of perceived usefulness any person may be to the bottom line by virtue of health circumstances. When empirical evidence of immense profits gained by health insurance companies via the health hardship of the American people we should feel a collective shame for our ignorance that made this godless system possible.

    • monica goodrich on May 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      I have never seen the need for universal healthcare put so eloquently! Thank you.

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