The number of working-age adults with at least one major chronic condition has risen by 25% to nearly 58 million people in the past 10 years, according to a new study by Kaiser Family Foundation researchers and published as a Web exclusive in Health Affairs. Also in this period, uninsured adults with chronic conditions had a hard time accessing care. In addition to overall growth in the adult population, the increase reflects rising rates of chronic disease in nonelderly adults, the study said.
Analyzing 10 years of data, the study used access-to-care measures from the National Health Interview Survey for nonelderly adults having at least one of these seven major conditions: asthma, cancer, diabetes, emphysema, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. Researchers then made comparisons within that group among those who were uninsured, publicly insured through Medicaid and privately insured. The percentage of uninsured adults with a chronic condition who reported not having a usual source of care between 1997 and 2006 grew to 34% from 29%, as the percentage of those not having seen a health professional rose to 26% from 21%. Also, the study showed more people in all three insurance groups reported having unmet needs for prescriptions drugs because of cost in 2006 compared with 1997.
Ensuring that more people living with chronic conditions, regardless of their health problems, have access to affordable health insurance coveragewhich provides sufficient financial protectionis a well-evidenced first step toward improving access to care, the studys authors concluded. -- by Jessica Zigmond
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