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High Costs Still Keeping Some Kentuckians from Seeking Medical Care

Public News Service

Because of the cost of medical care, one out of every five Kentucky adults has delayed or skipped care this year according to a new report.

The report is part of ongoing research by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky into the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Ben Chandler, the foundation's president and chief executive, said the rate rises to more than 29 percent among Kentuckians with lower incomes - those below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

"It causes them often to become sicker and increases costs in the long run," he said. "What we want to do is encourage people to utilize the health-care system at the front end, and hopefully that can help with preventive care and cut costs."

The report found that one in four Kentuckians went without dental care while nearly one in five skipped prescription medications. Still, Chandler said the rate is better than in the past, which he attributed in part to the Affordable Care Act.

Over the past three years, more than 500,000 Kentuckians have gained access to insurance coverage for the first time, lowering the state's uninsured population to 6 percent. While cost remains a barrier, Chandler said, one in five adults avoiding care is better than seven years ago when nearly one in three - 32 percent - skipped or delayed their care.

"And you have to attribute that to insurance being available to more people," he said.

The report also found that barely one in four small businesses in Kentucky offered health insurance to their employees in 2015, a 10 percent decline from three years prior. Chandler attributed that to more workers in small businesses getting their insurance from the state health exchange.

"That doesn't, I don't believe, represent more uninsured people in Kentucky," he said. "I think, more than anything, it represents just a shift in where people are getting their insurance."

Nearly all businesses with 50 or more employees - 98.3 percent, according to the Foundation's report - still offer health insurance.

The ACA report is online at healthy-ky.org.