Mental Health Tops Californians’ Health Care Priorities in Statewide Poll

Half of Californians delaying or skipping care due to costs

Eran Ben-Porath, SSRS
Emily Hachey, SSRS
Jazmyne Sutton, SSRS
Jennifer Su, SSRS


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As California continues to grapple with rising health care costs and increasing concerns about access to mental health care, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) in conjunction with SSRS, a national survey research firm, conducted its second annual California Health Policy Survey. The poll provides insights into Californians’ experiences and attitudes about health coverage, health care costs, access to care, Medi-Cal, mental health, substance use treatment, the health care workforce, and homelessness.

Among health issues, Californians’ top priority is ensuring people with mental health problems can get treatment (52% say it is “extremely important”). Next is lowering the price of prescription drugs (47% “extremely important”), followed by making sure all Californians have health insurance (46% “extremely important”).

As it did last year, access to mental health care ranks in the top two health priorities for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike.

The poll also found that large numbers of Californians who need mental health care struggle to get it. Among those with insurance who tried to make an appointment for mental health care in the past 12 months, nearly half (48%) found it “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to find a provider who took their insurance. Over half (52%) of those who tried to make an appointment (with or without insurance) believe they waited longer than was reasonable to get one.

“For too long, the health care system has treated mental health concerns as a second-tier issue,” said CHCF President and CEO Sandra R. Hernández, MD. “For the second year in a row, the people of California are sending a clear message that this is the top health care issue they want addressed.”

More Are Worried About the Cost of Health Care

Californians rank health care affordability as a top priority among a range of public challenges presented in the poll — with 84% of respondents citing it as “extremely important” or “very important.” Support for making health care more affordable cuts across party identification, race, and income lines.

Just over half of Californians (51%) have skipped or postponed physical or mental health care due to cost — up from 44% last year. Of those who took this step, 42% said it made their condition worse. Compared to last year, more Californians are worried about paying for a variety of health care costs.

The full report, available in Document Downloads below, shows data broken down by region, age, race, gender, and income. Also available are the “top-line” (methodology, key results, and a complete question list), charts, and a press release about the poll. A post on The CHCF Blog, “Californians Want Action on Health Care Costs and Access to Mental Health Treatment,” covers five key takeaways.