Survey: Mental health care and rising costs are top concerns for Californians

The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) released its second annual California Health Policy Survey on Thursday, providing an analysis of Californians’ opinions on a broad range of health-related topics. The survey, conducted in conjunction with national survey research firm SSRS, asked 1,408 Californians for their opinions on health care costs, policy priorities, mental health, health care workforce, and homelessness, among other topics.

 

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In terms of general public policy priorities, addressing homelessness and affordable housing topped Californians priorities with 49% reporting that these issues are “extremely important.” Making health care more affordable was also high on the priority list with 45% ranking the issue as extremely important. When combined with the “very important” category, health care affordability (alongside improving public education) topped the priority list at 84%.

When looking at specific health care priorities, 90% of residents said making sure people with mental health problems can get treatment was extremely or very important. Also high up on the priority list was lowering the price of prescription drugs at 82%. This represents a significant jump from last year’s results where 75% listed drug pricing as extremely or very important. 

Eighty-three percent said making sure there are enough providers across California is a top priority, 81% highlighted making sure Californians have access to health insurance, and 80% said making sure information about prices is available to patients is extremely or very important.

 

Image: CHCF

 

This is the second year in a row that mental health has been a top health care priority for Californians.  

According to the report, about a quarter of Californians say either they or a family member have received mental health treatment in the past year. A key issue preventing Californians from accessing care is the difficulty in making appointments; 48% of those with insurance reported it was either very or somewhat difficult from them to find a mental health provider who took their insurance. Fifty-five percent of Californians also said they believe there aren’t enough mental health providers in their community.

There was widespread agreement on policy proposals aimed at ensuring Californians get treatment including giving communities tools to connect homeless individuals to mental health care, increasing the number of mental health providers, expanding early detection programs, and care coordination.

“For too long, the health care system has treated mental health concerns as a second-tier issue,” said CHCF President and CEO Sandra R. Hernández, MD, in a prepared statement. “For the second year in a row, the people of California are sending a clear message that this is the top health care issue they want addressed.”

Health care affordability also continues to be a primary concern for Californians. Compared to last year, more people say they are worried about unexpected medical bills, out-of-pocket costs for health services, and prescription drug costs.

There is also an increase in the number of people who skipped or postponed care due to cost (51% in 2020) compared to last year (44%). According to the report, of the individuals who said they postponed or skipped care due to cost, 42% said it made their condition worse.

 

Image: CHCF

 

CHCF’s full report, top-line results, and charts are available here