People with Chronic Conditions More Likely to Face Problems Accessing Health System, Report States
People with various chronic health conditions "disproportionately" encounter problems when accessing the health care system, including delay of care or dissatisfaction with care specialists, according to the Health Rights Hotline, a service that provides assistance to consumers in the Sacramento, Calif., area. In a report titled, "When What's Ailing You Isn't Only Your Health," the group notes difficulties faced by individuals with cancer, diabetes, mental health conditions and other conditions. The report is based on calls to the hotline between July 1997 and June 1999. Among the major findings:
- People with cancer are almost twice as likely as other callers to report "specialty care problems," such as delays in seeing specialists, dissatisfaction with available specialists and failure of primary care providers to make an accurate diagnosis or "appropriate referrals." Cancer patients calling the hotline also were 39% more likely to report "inappropriate care problems," including the failure of primary care providers to "recognize symptoms" of their conditions or order appropriate diagnostic tests;
- People with diabetes were nearly two-thirds more likely to report denials of care and almost three times as likely to report that their copayments for prescription drugs were "too high" or that medications were not covered by their insurance. Diabetes patients also were more than four times as likely to report that high prescription drug and health insurance costs "are obstacles to obtaining necessary" care; and
- People with mental health conditions are 55% more likely to report denials of care, such as counseling, therapy or treatment, and nearly twice as likely to report difficulty in securing doctor appointments for medication monitoring or to obtain prescriptions for medication refills. Mental health patients also are more than twice as likely to report that health plan copayments, Medicaid "share-of-cost" or other health insurance costs "makes needed mental health services unaffordable and inaccessible."