Alarming number of uninsured Mainers are going without care or needed medicine
Maine people without insurance are having trouble getting health care. A new data brief from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) and the University of Southern Maine, Low-Income, Uninsured Mainers Face Substantial Challenges Getting Health Care, highlights the scope of those challenges.
Focusing on adults age 18 – 64 with incomes below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (in 2018, about $22,715 per year for a family of two), the report shows that uninsured people have trouble finding doctors, getting appointments, and paying for care. Of most concern is the high number of individuals who went without, or delayed, care, or who were unable to purchase prescriptions.
“Lack of health insurance coverage is having a direct and negative impact on people’s health,” said Barbara Leonard, President & CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF).
Over half of uninsured low-income adults in this sample reported that they did not have a usual source of care. With no usual source of care, people are less likely to receive preventive care, quickly address new health issues, and get support for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Over half of those surveyed who are uninsured also reported they had problems paying medical bills. Even one third of low-income individuals with coverage reported such problems.
“While low-income Maine people across the board have trouble paying medical bills, lack of insurance increases that burden. This can result in their having fragmented, ineffective, and inefficient care, or not seeking care at all,” said Leonard.
The impacts of not having health insurance reach beyond the individual and their family. In any given year, between 40% and 50% of Maine hospitals operate at a loss, according to the Maine Hospital Association. In 2016, the total value of uncompensated care provided by Maine hospitals exceeded $570 million – a new record for bad debt and free care that hospitals say is unsustainable.
“Hospitals cannot continue to experience low or no reimbursement for services and remain financially viable,” said Steven Michaud, President of the Maine Hospital Association. “Helping more people in Maine get insurance coverage helps improve the quality of care for everyone by ensuring hospitals, including our rural hospitals, stay solvent and deliver comprehensive services in their local communities.”
Maine businesses are also feeling the effects. The availability of high quality, local health care and education are often factors in workers’ decisions about where to seek employment. Health insurance coverage is another important deciding factor for workers.
“Maine business owners know the importance of coverage in helping their workers stay healthy, productive, and able to come to work, which is where they want to be” said Peter Hayes, CEO of the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance of Maine.
These findings in the data brief are based on analysis by the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service of data from the national Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS). MeHAF support allows an oversample of Maine residents in the survey. Results from the compiled 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 surveys are included in the report. Sample size is too small to allow analysis of changes over time.
Barbara Leonard, President & CEO
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