California Survey on Health Care Access, Debt, & Equity

Summary: The newest survey of California health issues finds access limited by cost, causing clinical harm; pervasive medical debt; and racial differences around provider interactions. These ongoing health system failures highlight the desperate need for real reform.

The 2023 CHCF California Health Policy Survey

February 16, 2023

By Lucy Rabinowitz Bailey et al

Key findings from this year’s survey include:

Health care costs. Like prior years, half of Californians (52%) report skipping or delaying health care due to cost in the past 12 months.  Of those who skipped or delayed care, half of them (50%) say their condition got worse as a result.

Medical debt. More than 1 in 3 (36%) report having medical debt, and of those, 1 in 5 (19%) report owing $5,000 or more. Californians with lower incomes (52%) are more likely than those with higher incomes (30%) to report medical debt. [Rates for Black (48%) and Latino/x (52%) respondents are nearly twice as high as among Whites and Asians.]

Equity. More than half of Californians (54%) experienced at least one negative interaction with a health care provider in the last few years. Black and Latino/x Californians were more likely (69% and 62%, respectively) to report having negative experiences than White and Asian Californians (48% each).

Comment by: Don McCanne

This is California, land of affluence with Blue State politics where we care about each other, or do we? We have the resources to provide health care to everyone, and we have the knowledge of how to distribute those resources equitably to everyone through a single payer system. And yet look at our current health policy survey: Californians skipping care due to cost, half experiencing worsening of their medical condition as a result, over one-third facing medical debt, all while perpetuating racial and ethnic inequities.

We can end this now, not just for California, but for the entire nation. We merely need to enact and implement a well-designed, single payer, health care financing system. We have the right policy; it is long past time to break down the political barriers. 

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