Survey suggests majority of Mainers consider healthcare “unaffordable”
We hear a lot about healthcare and healthcare reform on the national stage these days. But what do Mainers experience with healthcare today, and what do they think about our current system?
To try to answer these questions, Maine AllCare asked people from around the state about the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in a survey done in fall 2019. More than 80 volunteers talked with 3,864 people from all 16 Maine counties, and responses were collected from residents of 287 towns and cities across the state. The survey used a “convenience sample” where respondents were drawn from door-to-door canvassing of areas that could be reached by volunteers (not based on voter registration or demographics) and from tabling at community events. The survey was funded by a grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF).
The results suggest that while nearly all of those who responded had some form of health insurance (94.6%), and most had a doctor, clinic, or hospital to go to when they had a healthcare need (91.5%), a solid majority (78.1%) labeled the current healthcare system as “unaffordable.”
Diving deeper into issues of affordability, the survey found that 42.3% of these Mainers (who were mostly insured) reported that they had put off a medical treatment for themselves or family members because of the cost, and more than 52.8% said that they had experienced an unexpected medical bill that had a significant impact on their finances.
Participants were also asked two questions about healthcare reform. In response, more than 80% said they would strongly or slightly support “a national improved and expanded Medicare for All healthcare system.” A similar number (81%), said they would support “a publicly funded healthcare system that covered everyone in Maine” if the federal government was “unable to pass universal healthcare coverage.” For both questions, approximately 11% of respondents were undecided and 7% were against.
Maine AllCare Field Director Abbie Ryder noted that the number of respondents who currently have employer-based coverage was surprising (just under 40%), especially given how many also called healthcare “unaffordable” in our current system. A recently released report on the economic feasibility of a universal health care system for Maine, done by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), indicates a similar proportion of people with employer-based coverage, corroborating the survey’s findings.
David Jolly, a Penobscot resident who canvassed door-to-door in Hancock County during the survey “was impressed that almost everyone [he spoke with], even wealthy people with great insurance, said healthcare was not affordable. Some qualified it by saying that healthcare was affordable for them, but not for others.”
The results of this survey strongly suggest that Mainers are not being well served by our present healthcare system, and they want a solution.