More Than 40% Of New Orleans Adults Reported Worse Health Care Access After Hurricane Katrina

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Many adults in the Greater New Orleans area have experiencedproblems with access to health care since Hurricane Katrina, accordingto a report released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (Moran, New Orleans Times-Picayune,8/1). For the report, titled "Health Challenges for the People of NewOrleans," researchers last fall conducted a survey of about 1,500randomly selected adults younger than age 65 in the Greater New Orleansarea that included questions about their health insurance status andaccess to health care before and after the hurricane.

According to the report, 43% of all adults reported at least oneproblem with health care access since the hurricane. About 22% of alladults reported a reduction in the ability to meet their health careneeds compared to before the hurricane, and 18% reported problems intheir efforts to reach their health care providers since the hurricane,the report found. In addition, 16% of all adults reported that theyhave had to switch health care providers since the hurricane, accordingto the report. About 20% of all adults reported that they lack healthinsurance, according to the report. Among adults in Orleans Parish, 25%reported that they lack health insurance and 70% of those adults wereAfrican-American, the report found. In Orleans Parish, 33% ofAfrican-American adults were uninsured compared with 12% of whiteadults, according to the report.

About 9% of households withchildren reported a child who lacks health insurance, with thepercentage about the same among African-American and white adults, thereport found (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 7/31).

Additional Results

The report also found that:

  • 61%of all adults who previously used Charity Hospital, which has remainedclosed since the hurricane, as their health care provider reported thatthey have no usual access to care except private emergency departments;
  • About 10% of all adults reported that their health has worsened since the hurricane;
  • 12% of adults in Jefferson Parishand 21% of adults in Orleans Parish reported that their mental healthhas gotten worse since the hurricane;
  • About 8% of all adults said they had delayed health care within the last six months;
  • 6% of all adults reported that theyhad not filled prescriptions, had skipped doses of medications or hadtaken reduced doses of treatments within the last six months (NewOrleans Times-Picayune, 8/1); and
  • More than 40% of all adults reported that they have chronic diseases (Sternberg, USA Today, 8/1).

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Response

Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO, said, "Many ofthe health access problems highlighted in our survey are common inother low-income urban areas across the country. What makes New Orleansunique is the lack of a health care system able to respondpost-Katrina." Altman added, "The findings help explain why residentsranked getting medical facilities up and running as such a top priorityonly behind repairing levees and controlling crime" (Kaiser FamilyFoundation release, 7/31).

Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and executive director of the foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured,said, "Everyone has been struggling to get their lives back togetherand to get the health care resources they need. Restoring healthservices is a vital component of making the city a place where peoplewant to live and work and raise their families" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/1).

House Subcommittee Hearing

Rowland will present the report on Wednesday at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigationshearing on problems with the New Orleans health care system. Accordingto the Louisiana Hospital Association, the hospitals that provide 95%of health care in New Orleans will lose a combined $135 million by theend of 2007. In addition, the closure of Charity and partial closure ofUniversity Hospital -- facilities that provided health care to 80% oflow-income and uninsured New Orleans residents before the hurricane --have resulted in a loss of federal funds for hospitals in Louisiana.

Louisiana had received about $1 billion in federal funds to treatuninsured patients at the 10 safety net hospitals in the state. MarkPeters, CEO of East Jefferson General Hospital in New Orleans, said,"We're trying to impress upon the committee our need for urgentfinancial help." Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.), who will chair thehearing, said, "Health care is falling apart in the region" (USA Today, 8/1).

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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork\t\t\t\t\t\t\t

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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