Survey: Health care affordability concerns grip Mississippians

Published 11:02 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

A recent survey conducted by Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub in partnership with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program and Health Help Mississippi has uncovered the significant challenges that Mississippi adults face in affording health care. The findings highlight growing concerns about the cost of health care in the state.

A striking 72 percent of Mississippi adults disclosed that they have grappled with health care affordability issues over the past year. Moreover, an overwhelming four out of five respondents expressed deep-seated anxieties about their ability to afford health care in the future. These statistics underscore the extent to which health care expenses have become a source of stress for many Mississippi residents.

In addition to these overarching concerns, the survey unveiled that 63 percent of Mississippians have had to make the difficult choice of delaying or forgoing essential healthcare services due to financial constraints in the past 12 months.

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A resounding consensus emerged from the survey: Mississippians widely believe that government intervention is crucial to addressing the challenges within the healthcare system. A remarkable 88% of respondents, including 86 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats, and 87 percent of unaffiliated individuals, expressed their support for government initiatives aimed at expanding health insurance options to ensure that quality coverage remains accessible to all.

Dr. Beth Beaudin-Seiler, director of Healthcare Value Hub, emphasized the significance of these findings, stating, “the survey data unequivocally indicates that Mississippi residents are grappling with various health care affordability issues. Furthermore, it underscores bipartisan support for potential policy solutions.”

The survey data was collected through Altarum’s Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) and involved more than 1,300 Mississippi residents aged 18 and older. The survey was conducted through a web panel from May 3 to May 22, 2023.

The survey also shed light on disparities in healthcare affordability, with factors such as income, race, ethnicity, disability status, and geographic location playing a significant role. For instance, 55 percent of black respondents and 63 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents reported experiencing financial burdens, including going into debt or depleting savings due to medical bills, compared to 46 percent of white respondents.

Those with lower incomes, earning less than $50,000 per year, were particularly affected, with 76 percent reporting struggles to afford various aspects of health care coverage or care in the past year. This group also reported higher rates of forgoing necessary care and rationing medication due to financial constraints.

Respondents who have a disability or live with someone who has a disability faced even higher rates of financial burden, with 63 percent reporting going into debt or sacrificing basic needs due to medical expenses, compared to 43 percent of respondents in households without a disabled member. Additionally, individuals purchasing health insurance on their own experienced the highest rate (64 percent) of financial burdens related to medical bills, compared to respondents with other insurance types. Geographically, residents across Mississippi reported similar rates of financial difficulties related to health care costs.

Furthermore, the survey underscores the significance of healthcare as a top priority for Mississippians. When asked about government priorities for the upcoming year, 46 percent of respondents prioritized healthcare issues, closely followed by concerns about the economy and joblessness, which received 45 percent of votes. Taxes garnered 35 percent of votes.

Remarkably, there is substantial support for change across political affiliations, highlighting that addressing health care affordability is a shared concern. Given the high burden of healthcare costs and the broad support for change, it is imperative that elected officials and stakeholders prioritize solutions to alleviate this consumer burden. The ongoing COVID crisis has prompted Mississippi residents to scrutinize the effectiveness of health care and public health systems, further emphasizing the need for action. Regular surveys can serve as vital tools for assessing progress in addressing these issues.

Roy Mitchell, executive director of the MS Health Advocacy Program, emphasized the urgency of the situation, saying, “it’s time for our lawmakers and policy leaders to listen to us and act accordingly. The health of the people in our state cannot wait. We can no longer stand by and watch while families and communities experience adverse health outcomes that could be treated or prevented with health coverage.”