Health care providers gather at the nurses’ station in the intensive care unit at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Californians reached record health insurance coverage in 2020, with 94% of residents covered, but fewer people received routine check-ups, primarily due to concerns over COVID-19, researchers found.

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. The 2020 results mark the lowest number since 2013.

More than 21% cited COVID-19 as the main reason they delayed or went without medical care in 2020. But for adults 65 and up, 55.2% said COVID-19 was the main reason for delaying or forgoing medical care.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released the results this week.

“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.

The findings, he said, build on preliminary COVID-19 monthly estimates that began to be released a year ago. The data provided early monthly data on COVID-19 treatment and vaccine acceptance, as well as personal and financial impacts of the pandemic.

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: 76.7% said they would get inoculated versus 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, the research center’s director and a principal investigator for the survey.

“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 and health experts. The survey was adapted in 2020 to include questions about the 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. Nearly 90% of Black participants, though, reported having health insurance.

The survey also found that 6.4% of Black respondents and 4.2% of Asian respondents experienced unfair treatment based on race and ethnicity. That makes 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 also were more likely to report having thoughts of suicide, according to surveyors.

– City News Service

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