A new healthcare poll finds that a majority of New Mexicans have put off medical visits due to cost

A new poll found that one in two New Mexicans didn’t seek medical care in the past two years due to the cost. Nearly a quarter of New Mexicans said they’d experienced discomfort or pain because they could not afford the cost.

Of the respondents, 36 percent said they skipped dental care due to cost. Another 29 percent delayed visiting a doctor or procedure and 26 percent avoided visiting a doctor or procedure altogether because of the expense.

Alex Williams, healthcare policy advocate for New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, told NM Political Report that currently, there are 200,000 individuals in New Mexico who lack access to healthcare.

“Most aren’t receiving the care they need because the cost is too high,” Williams said.

Another 65 percent lack confidence they can pay for medical services when care arises, according to the poll. Latino/Hispanic and Black individuals were the most worried about paying for care.

Williams said the poll takers asked questions about what the respondents would like to see changed. He said the majority said they wanted access to affordable healthcare and a state-run plan. According to the poll, 72 percent said they support a government-administered health plan, which is sometimes referred to as a public option.

Individuals could continue to have employer-sponsored health insurance but a government-sponsored plan, or public option, could help lower costs to overall health insurance, Williams said.

The poll found that most respondents blame the federal government for the high cost of healthcare.

Williams said that the federal government could do a better job of regulating the health insurance market or negotiate better prices.

“They can see the federal government could, especially on a nationwide level, negotiate drug prices which they don’t currently do. Inaction by the federal government contributes to the high cost,” he said.

Black adults, Democrats and Independents were the most likely to say they wanted fundamental changes to the health care system. Maternal mortality rates are highest among Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women , according to the American Medical Association. The black infant mortality rate is also twice the rate for white infants.

Racial disparity plays a role in accessing affordable health insurance coverage for communities of color. People of color were more likely to lack health insurance before the federal government implemented the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While the gap in health insurance coverage has narrowed, white individuals are more likely to have health insurance than people of color, according to the Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

There was little difference between men and women polled. For instance, 65 percent of women respondents said they were not confident they could pay for routine medical services and 78 percent said they lacked confidence they could pay for a major medical illness or injury.

Of the men who were queried, 64 percent said they were not confident they could pay for routine medical services and 73 percent said they were not sure they could pay for a major medical illness or injury.

A majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans – 75 percent of respondents – said undocumented individuals should have access to Medicaid.

“We think everyone deserves access to healthcare. What we found in this poll, the majority of people across the political spectrum all believe Medicaid should be expanded and that means including all immigrants,” Williams said.

A larger percentage – 86 percent – said undocumented individuals should be allowed to access insurance through the health insurance marketplace.

Another change the majority of respondents said they wanted to see was greater transparency over cost: 65 percent said they felt the costs are not transparent. Eight in ten said they would like for all hospitals to provide the same financial assistance and payment plans so all individuals know in advance what aid is available.

The state expanded postpartum Medicaid coverage on April 1 to 12 months from two months. Williams said that while this is “very positive,” it means that individuals who already qualify will access the expanded coverage but individuals currently uninsured will still not be able to receive the postpartum care.

Related: State expands postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months

Individuals who make 138 percent above the federal poverty level qualify for Medicaid and that is a “very low” income, Williams said.

“We’re very happy about that [expanded postpartum Medicaid]; that’s very positive. It’ll extend care and that’s very, very good but it won’t mean more people will be eligible for care,” Williams said.

The poll was conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and state partners by the nonpartisan research firm Perry Undem and Betty & Smith. The survey was conducted over landline and cell phone from Jan. 12 to Feb. 6 and included 824 individuals who are 18 years of age or older and reside in New Mexico. The poll was released by NM Together for Healthcare, a statewide campaign of organizations who want to strengthen healthcare. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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