Poll finds many Kentuckians continue to struggle with cost of health care, though fewer are uninsured and struggling

While having health insurance certainly eases the cost burden of health care, nearly one-third of Kentucky adults struggle to pay their medical bills whether they have health insurance or not, and two in 10 say they often delay or skip needed medical care because of the cost, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

The poll, taken Sept. 17-Oct 7, found that in 28 percent of Kentucky households, someone had trouble paying medical bills in the previous 12 months. This didn’t vary much between those with or without insurance, and was about the same as in 2014.

However, fewer Kentucky adults without insurance said they had difficulty paying their medical bills in 2015 than in 2014: down to 31 percent from 47 percent. In 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was fully implemented in Kentucky with expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual out-of-pocket cost per person for health care in the United States in 2014 was $1,036,which includes costs for any expenses not covered by insurance, says the report.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll also found that 20 percent of Kentucky households did not get the medical care they needed, or delayed care because of the cost, in the past 12 months. This was more common among Kentucky’s uninsured (27 percent) than those with insurance (19 percent).

However, these figures were an improvement from 2009, when 58 percent of uninsured Kentucky adults said they delayed or didn’t get needed care, and from 2014, when 38 percent said so.

Poorer adults, those eligible for Medicaid, were more likely to forgo health care because they can’t afford it; 29 percent of them said they had in the previous year, while only 16 percent of people with higher incomes said so.

“Being able to access medical care and being able to afford that care are two important factors to improve health in Kentucky,” Susan Zepeda, CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. “KHIP data indicate that fewer Kentucky adults are delaying medical care. This helps Kentuckians get and stay healthier, getting timely preventive services and early help with management of chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma and with smoking cessation counseling.”

The poll was conducted by Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati and for the foundation and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. It surveyed a random sample of 1,608 adults via landline and cell phone, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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