Medical Costs Hit Residents of Texas, Florida Especially Hard, Study Finds

They have more trouble covering expenses than people living in other large states

FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Significantly more adults in Florida and Texas struggle to pay medical bills or pay off medical debt over time compared with residents of New York and California, a new report finds.

The study, which compared health coverage in the four largest states, found 40 percent of adults in Florida and Texas have trouble paying medical bills or said they’re paying over time versus 30 percent in New York state and 25 percent of those in California.

The researchers also found that 43 percent of those in Florida and Texas said they didn’t see a doctor when sick, didn’t fill a prescription, skipped a medical test, treatment or follow-up, or didn’t get needed specialist care in the past 12 months because of cost. This compared with about 30 percent in California and New York.

Even though uninsured rates fell after implementation of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called “Obamacare”), millions of Americans still don’t have access to affordable health insurance in states that have not yet expanded their Medicaid programs, according to the Commonwealth Fund report released Friday.

“The bottom line is that states’ health policy decisions are a factor in whether or not millions of people have health insurance coverage,” Commonwealth Fund President Dr. David Blumenthal said in a news release from the organization.

“If states don’t take the necessary steps to help their residents obtain insurance, we may see ever-widening disparities between states in their residents’ coverage and the financial protection it provides,” he added.

California and New York fully expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but Texas and Florida did not, the report authors explained.

“Fully expanding Medicaid would help reduce the high uninsured rates in Florida and Texas” and help people afford the care they need, said Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund.

Among the other findings in the Commonwealth Fund study:

  • Uninsured rates among working-age adults were 30 percent in Texas, 21 percent in Florida, 17 percent in California, and 12 percent in New York.
  • Uninsured rates among adults with low incomes ($11,490 for an individual or $23,550 for a family of four) were 51 percent in Texas, 33 percent in Florida, 23 percent in California and 13 percent in New York.
  • Uninsured rates for young adults, aged 19 to 34, were 34 percent in Texas, 26 percent in Florida, 23 percent in California and 14 percent in New York.
  • Among adults with insurance, 39 percent in Florida and 36 percent in Texas said they had at least one problem getting needed care in the past 12 months because of cost, compared with 28 percent in California and 27 percent in New York.
  • Twenty-one percent of adults in Texas and 17 percent of those in Florida said they were contacted by a collection agency for unpaid medical bills in the past year, compared with 11 percent in New York and 9 percent in California.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about health insurance.

— Robert Preidt


SOURCE: Commonwealth Fund, news release, April 10, 2015


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