A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Read All The Reports

Read All The Reports

October 27, 2009

Lots of interesting reports out in the past few days looking at Massachusetts health care access. Individually, each presents a slightly different picture, based on what they looked at and how they looked at it. One theme is that while Massachusetts health reform has done a remarkable job of increasing access for hundreds of thousands of residents, we still have a long way to go to address the striking health disparities that exist among racial and ethnic minority populations. Here's a rundown:

1. First, DHCFP's new 2009 Health Insurance Survey (ppt). The survey confirms the progress made in extending coverage. The overall uninsurance rate was 2.7%, statistically identical to last year's 2.6%. The report estimated that about 171,000 people did not have coverage at the time of the survey, which was conducted between March and June 2009.

The survey found uninsurance was highest among Hispanic residents at 5.1%. In contrast, the uninsurance rate for white, non-Hispanic residents is less than 3%. Some 73% of those surveyed said they support health reform in Massachusetts, up from 64 percent in 2006.

2, Second, DPH released their annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey (click here for all the reports). This report is the first MA BRFSS publication that summarizes health survey results for selected cities. This is supplementary to the statewide annual BRFSS report and aims to provide health behavior data at the sub-state level, targeting specific population groups. “A Profile of Health Among Massachusetts Adults in Selected Cities, 2008” details results from 7 Massachusetts cities chosen for their racial and ethnic diversity: Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Lawrence, Lowell, Fall River, and New Bedford. The report includes great information about overall health; health access and utilization; risk factors and preventive behaviors; chronic health conditions, cancer screening, and trends on these measures between 2000-2008.

Considering several social factors, include race/ethnicity, income, education level, disability, age group and gender, the survey finds that the seven cities studied have higher rates of uninsured adults and many have worse health outcomes than the state average.

Some of the major findings include:

  • Overall health measures: Adults in six of the seven cities were more likely to report fair or poor health than adults living in Massachusetts overall.
  • Health Insurance Status: New Bedford, Lowell, and Lawrence had a higher uninsurance rate than the state overall; Boston, Fall River, Worcester, and Springfield met the state average. In each of the cities, Hispanics are anywhere from two to four times as likely to be uninsured than whites.
  • Access to Providers: Adults in Boston, Lawrence, Lowell, and New Bedford were more likely to report that they did not have a personal health care provider than adults in Massachsuetts overall.
  • Affordability: More adults than average in Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, and New Bedford reported that they were unable to see a doctor due to cost in the past 12 months.

3. Finally, the Connector released its annual report for 2009 (pdf).

The report is full of detailed information on the Connector's accomplishments and progress. Detailed appendices present statistics and reference information. The report puts in context the issue of access to care, comparing MA to national average:

These reports all add to our updated picture of the health reform in 2009.
- Brian Rosman, Dayanne Leal and Suzanne Curry