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Data briefs reveal 77 percent of Kentuckians currently worried about healthcare affordability

Three out of four Kentuckians (77 percent) are worried about affording healthcare, according to data briefs released by the Healthcare Value Hub in collaboration with the ThriveKY campaign.

The findings come from a new Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) of 1,140 Kentucky adults, conducted between May 8-May 26, 2020. Reported problems range from delaying going to the doctor (30 percent) to rationing medicine (20 percent).

When asked about affording treatment for COVID-19, six in 10 of Kentucky respondents were worried or very worried. The eastern region of Kentucky reports the highest rate of concern over healthcare affordability, with 84 percent of residents experiencing worry.

Dissatisfaction with the current healthcare system is both statewide and bipartisan. Seventy-one (71) percent agreed or strongly agreed that the [healthcare] system needs to change, and 69 percent of respondents identified healthcare as the priority issue the government should focus on in the next year. Respondents endorsed a number of strategies to tackle healthcare costs, but the clear frontrunner, at 91 percent, was to “expand health insurance options so that everyone can afford quality coverage.”

“Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Kentucky residents are critically concerned about healthcare affordability and believe their elected officials should act to address these problems. We found that even when respondents got the care they needed, one out of three Kentucky adults (32 percent) struggled to pay the resulting bill,” said Amanda Hunt, co-deputy director of Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub. “Solutions received widespread support across party lines.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses in our current healthcare system. “More than 233,000 Kentuckians have lost employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health. “Being uninsured during a public health crisis and economic downturn is a major source of anxiety for families and it can be a recipe for disaster. Kentuckians are ready for bipartisan policy solutions that don’t force them to ration needed healthcare in order to pay the rent or put food on the table.”

Allison Crawford, a Lexington resident, experienced abdominal pain for well over a year before she could schedule the diagnostic surgery she needed. “Access to care was an issue, and when I worked three jobs I made too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford a high quality plan,” she said. “I had to wait until I found a full time job with benefits to have surgery, and even then had to travel out of state for the procedure. I’m fortunate to have access to transportation and a support system – so many others don’t.”

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Laura and Dallas McGarity are small business owners who run two restaurants in Kentucky. “Health insurance premiums for my family are astronomical,” said Laura McGarity, who pays for a high-deductible plan to keep her family insured. “We are, thankfully, relatively healthy, but we can’t risk not being covered if something happens. I have seen the damage medical debt can do to a family.”

Terri Bates, a single mother of two living in Frankfort, had to file bankruptcy due to medical debt. “I lived without health insurance for years when I was in college and when I worked for an employer who didn’t offer an affordable plan,” she said. “Two emergency surgeries and many routine bills later, I couldn’t get out from under the debt.”

Kentucky Equal Justice Center Director Rich Seckel said, ”Legal aid offices around the state for years have seen Kentuckian families crushed by debt to the point of bankruptcy, and too often plagued by collection practices. Medicaid expansion and marketplace plans made a big difference, but families worry that the coverage may end. And many recently lost their employer-sponsored coverage.”

The complete data briefs are available here: www.healthcarevaluehub.org/kentucky-healthcare-survey.

From Kentucky Voices for Health

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