Health care

Roughly 1 in 4 Tucson-area residents in the last year have decided not to seek medical care because they could not afford it, a new Arizona Daily Star community poll that’s part of a partnership with Tucson’s Strongpoint Opinion Research shows.

Of the nearly 1,400 people who took part in the health and wellness poll, 28 percent said they needed to see a doctor but felt they could not afford it. Another 16 percent said they skipped doses of prescribed medication because of the costs of refills and the same amount said they skipped meals because of limited funds available for food.

Health barriers are known to disproportionately affect senior citizens and poor people when seeking care. For Tucsonans taking the poll, the cost of doctor visits and medications were said to be the single largest barrier when it came to seeking care. Health insurance coverage was the second largest barrier to receiving quality health care.

When it comes to fixing the problem, more than 850 survey respondents prioritized reducing the financial burden of health care on individuals.

Nearly half felt that the lack of availability of preventative care was an extremely critical issue to tackle.

Pima County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Francisco Garcia, isn’t surprised by the figures, saying they mirror similar studies he has seen on the subject.

The findings reflect that Tucson has been consistently ranked as either the fifth or sixth-poorest large city in the country, Garcia said.

With an estimated 19 percent of Pima County residents living below the federal poverty line, Garcia said Pima County actively pursues strategies that would increase access to affordable health care.

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But there is some good news, Garcia says.

The number of low-income residents without health insurance in Pima County has declined significantly in the last two decades, when Garcia was training to become an obstetrician.

Back then, he said a lot of pregnant mothers came in with no insurance, a strong indicator that they had little prenatal care and few health-care options for the crucial six to eight weeks after the baby is born.

In Pima County, an estimated 88 percent of adults have health insurance.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197.