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Analysis

Millions of Californians Put Off Urgent Care During Coronavirus Pandemic

By John Commins  
   October 08, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its seventh month, a survey finds deteriorating mental health and rising stress among 96% of low-income residents.

Nearly one-third (31%) of Californians have delayed urgent or emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 36% of those with low incomes say their mental health has gotten "worse" or "a lot worse," according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the California Health Care Foundation and NORC at the University of Chicago – found that 96% of low-income Californians are struggling with the stresses of COVID-19 — including access to food, rent, and childcare.

"This has been a tumultuous year for all Californians, and we're seeing some serious warning signs about the toll it may be taking on the public's health," said Carlina Hansen, senior program officer on CHCF's Improving Access team. 

"It is becoming increasingly clear how many vulnerable populations are delaying the healthcare they need — with consequences that should concern us all," Hansen said.

Seven million Californians — 18% of the state's residents — live in poverty.

"Large numbers of Californians with low incomes especially are under serious stress, whether due to declining incomes or concern about their loved ones' health," Hansen said.

The survey respondents reported nearly equal levels of worry about getting the coronavirus (41%) and suffering the pandemic's economic impacts (37%). The survey was conducted between June 24 and August 21.

More than two-thirds (65%) of respondents with low incomes and 76% of respondents of color who accessed healthcare during the pandemic said they used a phone or video telehealth visit.

Most (71%) called it a positive experience and like the option for phone or video visits, and 63% said they would pick a phone or video visit over an in-person visit when possible. 

The survey also identified racism as a public health issue for many people of color, irrespective of the pandemic.

Nearly 7 in 10 Black respondents (69%) said they've experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race or ethnicity, and 31% of people of color said their mental health was "worse" or "a lot worse" as a result of racial discrimination.

The survey, conducted between June 24 and August 21, polled 2,249 adults at various income levels about their health concerns, experience, and access prior to and during the pandemic.

The sample was disproportionately representative of low-income Californians, and respondents were limited to those who accessed care since March 2019."This is impacting everything from mental health to other health issues," Hansen said. "Even in the midst of the pandemic, this survey highlights the next health crisis brewing among some of the state's most vulnerable groups."

“This has been a tumultuous year for all Californians, and we're seeing some serious warning signs about the toll it may be taking on the public's health.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Survey respondents reported nearly equal levels of worry about getting the coronavirus (41%) and suffering the pandemic's economic impacts (37%). 

More than two-thirds (65%) of respondents with low incomes and 76% of respondents of color who accessed healthcare during the pandemic used telehealth.

Most (71%) called it a positive experience and like the option for phone or video visits, and 63% said they would prefer a phone or video visit over an in-person visit.


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