Although there has been a move to get all Massachusetts residents covered by medical insurance in the past five years, a new study found that those most in need of care say high costs are a worsening problem. However, most also said the quality of care has improved over the same time period.
The survey, "Sick in Massachusetts: Views on Health Care Costs and Quality," with findings released today, was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in partnership with WBUR, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The survey focused on 500 adults who said they had a serious illness, medical condition, injury or disability requiring a lot of medical care, or who had been hospitalized overnight in the past 12 months.
Sixty-three percent said the problem of health care costs has gotten worse in Massachusetts over the past five years. More than one-third of sick adults reported that the cost of their medical care over the past 12 months caused a serious problem for their family's financial situation. One in seven sick adults, or 14 percent of those surveyed, said there was a time in the past 12 months when they could not get medical care they needed, and those who could not get care mainly cited financial reasons. One in 12 (8 percent) reported being refused care by a doctor or hospital for financial or insurance reasons at some time during the past 12 months. Forty percent said their out-of-pocket costs for medical care are a serious problem for them.
President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Sarah Iselin, said the survey adds a key perspective to the debate on how to tame health care costs. "What sick people are telling us is that even though they have access to needed care, many are not adequately protected against financial hardship," she said. "That's why it's so important to make sure we address the root causes of rising costs and not just continue to shift the burden to patients through higher deductibles and co-pays."
When it comes to quality, things are a bit brighter. Forty-eight percent of people surveyed said they are "very satisfied" with the medical care they received over the past 12 months; 36 percent said "somewhat satisfied" but think "some things could have been better." Three-fourths of respondents said that, overall, quality of care in Massachusetts had improved or stayed the same during the past five years.
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