California reached record health insurance coverage in 2020, with 94% of people covered, but fewer people received routine check-ups primarily due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey released Wednesday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The 2020 California Health Interview Survey includes data from 22,661 California households, including 21,949 adults, 1,365 adolescents and 3,548 children. Of adults participating in the survey, 67.9% had a preventive care visit in 2020, down from 71.1% in 2019 and marking the lowest number since 2013.
COVID-19 was the main reason participants delayed or went without medical care in 2020, with 21.6% saying it was because of the pandemic. For adults 65 and up, 55.2% said COVID-19 was the main reason for delaying or forgoing medical care.
“This is one of the most important data releases in the survey’s 20-year history because it sheds light on how impactful the pandemic was on multi-year trends in California for health-related behaviors and access to health care, as well as unfair treatment due to race or ethnicity,” said Todd Hughes, the survey’s director.
“These findings are building on the CHIS preliminary COVID-19 monthly estimates we released starting in September 2020, more than a year in advance of this year’s full release, that provided early monthly data on COVID-19 treatment and vaccine acceptability, as well as personal and financial impacts of the pandemic to aid in the state’s response to the ongoing crisis,” he continued.
Just over 15% of essential workers surveyed said they had or thought they had COVID-19 in 2020, while 12.1% of nonessential workers had or thought they had the virus. However, nonessential workers were slightly more likely to say they would get the COVID-19 vaccine, with 76.7% of nonessential workers saying they would get inoculated verse 73.6% of essential workers.
The survey also found that the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders created healthier eating habits and less binge drinking for youth, with 2.6% of those between 12 and 17 reporting that they engaged in binge drinking in the last month, compared to 7% in 2019. The percent of adolescents who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day increased from 26.1% in 2019 to 33.3% in 2020.
However, the survey also revealed a 51% increase in adolescents reporting being “almost constantly” on the internet.
“Seeing how COVID-19 affected the physical, mental, and emotional health of Californians benefits not only researchers, but also individuals and groups engaged in policy and on-the-ground efforts across the state,” said Ninez Ponce, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research director and CHIS principal investigator.
“Because the targeted data can be acted on, it enables those in power to determine which Californians most need help.”
The California Health Interview Survey is conducted every year to provide health data to policymakers, researchers, health experts and the media. The survey was adapted in 2020 to include questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also featured insights into health insurance coverage and trends among different racial and ethnic groups.
The survey found that 11% of Black participants don’t have a usual place to go when they are sick or need health advice, a 26% increase from 2019, despite 88.2% of Black participants reporting having health insurance.
The survey also found that 6.4% of Black respondents and 4.2% of Asian respondents experienced unfair treatments based on race and ethnicity, making Black adults more than three times as likely and Asian adults more than twice as likely to report unfair treatment compared to California’s general adult population.
Those who reported unfair treatment due to race or ethnicity were more likely to report having thoughts of suicide, according to surveyors.