More Than 40% of New Orleans Adults Reported Worse Health Care Access After Hurricane Katrina; Majority of One in Four Uninsured Adults in Orleans Parish Were African-American, Kaiser Family Foundation Survey Finds
Many adults in the Greater New Orleans area have experienced problems with access to health care since Hurricane Katrina, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (Moran, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/1). For the report, titled "Health Challenges for the People of New Orleans," researchers last fall conducted a survey of about 1,500 randomly selected adults younger than age 65 in the Greater New Orleans area that included questions about their health insurance status and access to health care before and after the hurricane.
According to the report, 43% of all adults reported at least one problem with health care access since the hurricane. About 22% of all adults reported a reduction in the ability to meet their health care needs compared to before the hurricane, and 18% reported problems in their efforts to reach their health care providers since the hurricane, the report found. In addition, 16% of all adults reported that they have had to switch health care providers since the hurricane, according to the report. About 20% of all adults reported that they lack health insurance, according to the report. Among adults in Orleans Parish, 25% reported that they lack health insurance and 70% of those adults were African-American, the report found. In Orleans Parish, 33% of African-American adults were uninsured compared with 12% of white adults, according to the report.
About 9% of households with children reported a child who lacks health insurance, with the percentage about the same among African-American and white adults, the report found (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 7/31).
The report also found that:
- 61% of all adults who previously used Charity Hospital, which has remained closed since the hurricane, as their health care provider reported that they have no usual access to care except private emergency departments;
- About 10% of all adults reported that their health has worsened since the hurricane;
- 12% of adults in Jefferson Parish and 21% of adults in Orleans Parish reported that their mental health has gotten worse since the hurricane;
- About 8% of all adults said they had delayed health care within the last six months;
- 6% of all adults reported that they had not filled prescriptions, had skipped doses of medications or had taken reduced doses of treatments within the last six months (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/1); and
- More than 40% of all adults reported that they have chronic diseases (Sternberg, USA Today, 8/1).
Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO, said, "Many of the health access problems highlighted in our survey are common in other low-income urban areas across the country. What makes New Orleans unique is the lack of a health care system able to respond post-Katrina." Altman added, "The findings help explain why residents ranked getting medical facilities up and running as such a top priority only behind repairing levees and controlling crime" (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 7/31).
Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and executive director of the foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, said, "Everyone has been struggling to get their lives back together and to get the health care resources they need. Restoring health services is a vital component of making the city a place where people want to live and work and raise their families" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/1).
House Subcommittee Hearing
Rowland will present the report on Wednesday at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on problems with the New Orleans health care system. According to the Louisiana Hospital Association, the hospitals that provide 95% of health care in New Orleans will lose a combined $135 million by the end of 2007. In addition, the closure of Charity and partial closure of University Hospital -- facilities that provided health care to 80% of low-income and uninsured New Orleans residents before the hurricane -- have resulted in a loss of federal funds for hospitals in Louisiana.
Louisiana had received about $1 billion in federal funds to treat uninsured patients at the 10 safety net hospitals in the state. Mark Peters, CEO of East Jefferson General Hospital in New Orleans, said, "We're trying to impress upon the committee our need for urgent financial help." Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.), who will chair the hearing, said, "Health care is falling apart in the region" (USA Today, 8/1).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat to view the report.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.