Survey finds, despite gains, some struggle for health care

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BOSTON (AP) — Even as Massachusetts continues to lead the nation with the highest rate of insured residents, some barriers to obtaining care persist.

Those barriers are most acute among some minority and vulnerable populations, including Hispanics, those with lower incomes, people in fair or poor health, and individuals who are limited in their activities.

That's according to a 2015 survey by The Center for Health Information and Analysis, created by a 2012 state law.

The survey found more than 96 percent of Massachusetts residents have insurance. That compares to a 91 percent for the nation.

The report also found that about 89 percent of respondents reported having a regular source of care and also reported making a visit to a doctor or other non-physician health practitioner over the past 12 months.

Costs continued to be a common barrier to obtaining health care.

The survey found that among all respondents, about 1 in 6 reported having an unmet need for health care due to cost, nearly 1 in 5 reported an unmet need for dental care due to cost, and about 1 in 6 reported difficulty paying family medical bills over the past 12 months.

Just over 3 in 10 of those responding to the survey said they were trying to lower their health care bills by trying to stay healthier.

One in 10 reported that someone in the family went without care.

Going without needed health care was particularly common among those who were uninsured, had lower incomes, or were in fair or poor health and limited in what activities they could do.

The survey also found those who were uninsured in Massachusetts in 2015 were more likely to be low income, male, single, and Hispanic.

Many of those uninsured may be eligible for MassHealth or ConnectorCare or eligible for a subsidy to purchase health insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector.

The report also found:

— Employer-sponsored health coverage remains the dominant source of coverage in Massachusetts, accounting for about 60 percent of all insured persons;

— Continuity of coverage has become the norm, with fewer than 1 in 10 respondents reporting a period without insurance over the past 12 months;

— Lower income families were more than twice as likely to report being told that a doctor's office or clinic would not accept their insurance type as respondents from families with higher incomes.

— Nearly 4 out of 10 of those who said they visited an emergency room during the past 12 months said they did so for non-emergency health needs, including some who said they had difficulty getting an appointment with a health care provider as soon as they needed.

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