According to a survey of Kentucky adults, conducted from May 8, 2020 to May 26, 2020, residents of the Western region have experienced high levels of healthcare affordability burdens. More than half of Western Kentucky adults (57%) experienced one or more of the following healthcare affordability burdens in the prior 12 months.
1) Being Uninsured Due to High Premium Costs1
2) Delaying or Foregoing Healthcare Due to Cost
More than half of Western Kentucky adults (51%) who needed healthcare during the prior 12 months encountered one or more cost-related barriers to getting that care:
At lower rates, respondents also reported problems getting mental health and addiction treatment. Moreover, cost was by far the most frequently cited reason for not getting needed medical care, exceeding a host of other barriers like transportation, difficulty getting an appointment and lack of childcare.
3) Struggling to Pay Medical Bills
In the prior 12 months, nearly a third of Western Kentucky adults (31%) experienced one or more of these struggles to pay their medical bills:
Residents of Western Kentucky also reported high levels of worry about affording healthcare in the future. More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) reported being “worried” or “very worried” about one or more of the following topics: affording nursing home and home care services (69%); costs when elderly (63%); health insurance becoming too expensive (62%); cost of a serious illness or accident (57%); cost of needed dental care (54%); prescription drug costs (53%); and losing health insurance (37%).
Residents of Western Kentucky were extremely dissatisfied with the health system. Almost three-quarters (70%) agreed or strongly agreed that “the system needs to change,” while just 26% agreed or strongly agreed that “we have a great healthcare system in the U.S.”
Respondents do see a role for themselves in solving problems. They reported actions they have already taken, like researching the cost of a drug beforehand (59%), as well as actions they should be taking—70% believed that taking better care of their personal health is one of the top things they can do personally to address affordability.
But, in far greater numbers, they saw a role for their elected representatives. Examples of strategies that received support across party lines are presented in Table 1.
The high burden of healthcare affordability, along with high levels of support for change, suggest that elected leaders and other stakeholders need to make addressing the cost of healthcare a top priority. Annual surveys can help assess whether or not progress is being made.
1. We received too few responses at the regional level to provide a reliable estimate for this statistic, but these respondents are included in the overall “burdened” population.
For survey methodology and state-wide data, see www.healthcarevaluehub.org/kentucky-healthcare-survey.