Balancing the cost of healthcare and other necessities in PA

Posted by on January 27, 2014

Study highlights poverty impact in SEPA

One in eight Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) adults (12.5% or about 390,400) have cut a meal’s size or skipped a meal altogether due to cost in the past year. Among adults in poverty the risk is much greater, with more than one in three adults in poverty (35.5%) cutting or skipping a meal as compared with 9.4% of adults living above the Federal Poverty Level.

An analysis of data collected through the 2012 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, a survey of 10,000 households in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties conducted by PHMC’s Center for Data Innovation, looks at the competing financial needs that many adults in the region face, including paying for healthcare visits, prescriptions, meals and housing.

More than four in ten adults in our region (44.3%) find their monthly housing costs “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to afford. That represents 407,300 adults. Seven in ten adults in poverty in SEPA (70.0%) have difficulty paying for housing, as compared with 40.1% of adults not living in poverty.

In the five-county area, one in eight adults (12.5%) was sick during the past year but did not seek care due to cost. This represents approximately 389,400 adults. In addition, 14.8% did not receive prescription drugs due to cost.  Adults in poverty were about twice as likely to forego care due to cost, with 21.9% of adults in poverty and 11.2% of adults living above the Federal Poverty Level facing cost barriers to care.

Difficulty affording healthcare varies geographically across SEPA.  While fewer than 10% of adults have not received necessary care due to the cost in neighborhoods like Center City, Roxborough- Manayunk and Germantown-Chestnut Hill (8.6%, 8.7% and 9.3%, respectively), in the Bridesburg-Kensington-Port Richmond planning district more than one quarter (26.4%) cite cost as a barrier to healthcare, as do about one in five (19.5%) in Upper North Philadelphia.  This variation extends to the suburbs as well, where 5.3% of adults face cost barriers in Central Bucks, as compared with 13.6% in Lower Bucks County and 14.2% in Upper Bucks.

Adults facing one financial hardship often face another.  Among adults who had difficulty paying for their healthcare in the past year, three-quarters (76.6%) or about 286,900 adults in our region also described their housing payments as “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to make.

The intersection between difficulty paying for medical care and food insecurity is even more stark.  Among adults who do not cite cost as a barrier to healthcare, 8% have cut the size of a meal or skipped a meal due to cost.  Among those who have difficulty paying for healthcare, more than four in ten (43.6%) or about 170,000 adults in the five county area have reduced their meals because of money.

To read the full report, go here.

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