The 2021 CHCF California Health Policy Survey

COVID-19, Health Care Costs Are Californians' Key Priorities in Statewide Poll

Rebecca Catterson, MPH, NORC
Lucy Rabinowitz, MPH, NORC
Emily Alvarez, MA, NORC


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The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced many long-standing challenges in California’s health care system. As we enter the second year of the public health crisis, the California Health Care Foundation and NORC, a national survey research firm, conducted this annual representative statewide survey of California residents between November 19, 2020 and January 12, 2021. The report includes Californians’ experiences of the health care system in the last year and the health policy agenda they want to set for state policymakers.

Key findings from this year’s survey include:

COVID-19. Making sure state and county public health departments have the resources they need to control the spread of COVID-19 is the number one health care priority for Californians, followed closely by making sure there are enough doctors, nurses, and other health care providers across the state.

COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly three in four of Californians (71%) say they will get the COVID-19 vaccine once available. Large majorities trust health care providers, federal health agencies, and public health departments to provide them accurate information about the vaccine.

Equity. About half of Californians say that it is harder for Black people (51%) and Latinx people (49%) to get the care they need compared to White people. Of those who believe it is harder, at least three of four think the federal government (86%), health insurance plans (82%), state government (78%), and individual health care providers (75%) are doing too little to address racial and ethnic inequality in the health care system.

Health care costs. Half of Californians (52%) say they have skipped or delayed health care in the prior 12 months. The primary reasons are related to the COVID-19 pandemic: Either their doctor’s office was closed or offering limited appointments, or because people felt unsafe visiting a doctor’s office or clinic during the pandemic. Half of Californians (51%) also say they took at least one action to delay, skip, or cut back on care because of cost in the last 12 months. Of those who cut back on care, 41% say the steps they took because of cost made their health condition worse.

Homelessness. More than three in four Californians (76%) say the state is doing a “fair” or “poor” job in providing health care to people experiencing homelessness, and 71% think it is important that California lawmakers address funding for health care, including mental health care, for them.

The full report, available for download below, shows data broken down by region, age, race, gender, and income. Also available are the detailed topline results, charts, and a press release about the poll. A post on The CHCF Blog, “Californians Overwhelmingly Support Funding of Public Health Efforts to Defeat Pandemic” covers five key takeaways.