A new poll by Kaiser shows that the health of many Americans is getting squeezed in the economic recession. One quarter of Americans (26%) report they or a family member have had problems paying medical bills in the past year. And about six in ten (58%) say that they or a family member in their household have delayed medical tests or treatment, left drug prescriptions unfilled or even cut pills in half to save money. Americans who report being in poor health are also the most likely to say they have delayed or skipped care because of worries about the cost. Health insurance also remains a big concern, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of the public responding that they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about having to pay more for health care
and health insurance.
The Kaiser poll adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that lack of access to health care is increasingly a middle class problem. The good news is that Community Health Centers are expanding — and an insurance card is not needed to get into the door of a health center. They serve people on a sliding scale fee, depending on income. Also, health centers offer a range of services, such as women’s health, pediatrics, pharmacy, behavioral health, pharmacy, and even dentistry.
The average health consumer with private insurance (or not) typically has to navigate the confusing health care marketplace to access these services in different places; not so for the health center patient who can access them under one roof. That’s the value of the Patient Centered Medical Home Model that health centers provide; care that is coordinated and makes sense for each individual patient. And the bright spot in what is otherwise sobering news in health care is that growing numbers of Americans who have lost their insurance coverage, or who are “medically disenfranchised” (lack access to basic health care), will be able to find care at a health center as they expand into more communities.