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Mental Health Treatment Tops Californians' Concerns Around Health Care, Poll Finds

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California Legislature is poised to make health care a priority this year, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently proposed expanding coverage to more residents.

A new poll of roughly 1,400 Californians from the California Health Care Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows health care issues, and especially mental health treatment, was a top concern for respondents.

“Californians are more worried about paying for health care than they are about paying for housing, which is just incredible,” said Kristof Stremikis, director of market analysis for the California Health Care Foundation.

Here are a few of the poll’s key findings:

Mental Health Is a Top Issue

When asked what health issues the legislature should focus on, respondents were most concerned about making sure people with mental health problems get treatment, followed by giving all residents access to insurance and then lowering costs.

About half of Californians say their community needs more mental health providers. Black and Hispanic residents were more likely to feel this way than white or Asian respondents.

Among those who said they or a family member sought mental health treatment in the past year, about a quarter said they had to wait longer than they thought was reasonable for an appointment. The percentage was higher — about 4 in 10— for Medi-Cal enrollees.

Views on Health Care Reform

California has made several efforts to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act, including loosening Medi-Cal eligibility and promoting the state-run health insurance marketplace, Covered California. The poll found 58 percent of Californians view the act favorably, and 56 percent say the marketplace is working well.

But the poll shows residents are divided on the idea of a single-payer system, in which all California residents would get their coverage from a single state government plan. Among all respondents, 47 percent were in favor of this model. Broken down by party, 59 percent of Democrats felt this way, compared to just 17 percent of Republicans.

Costs of Care

The survey also asked Californians about their experiences paying for health care, and found 1 in 5 had problems paying medical bills for themselves or a family member in the past year. More than 30 percent reported getting a surprisingly high medical bill, and 44 percent said they had delayed or skipped medical care in the past year due to concerns about cost. More than 60 percent said they had a difficult time finding prices of medical procedures.

Among Californians who don’t have insurance, one third said they choose not to because it is too expensive. Other reasons included not wanting to get it, being too busy, or having concerns about citizenship or residency status.

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