November 30, 2020

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COVID-19 Survey Shows Californians’ Access to Care and Desire for Testing


Health care workers from Riverside University Health Systems screen a patient for coronavirus at a drive-through testing site in Lake Elsinore, California. Photo: Bob Riha Jr. / Getty Images

To help Californians and state policymakers understand evolving demands on the state’s health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic, CHCF and global survey firm Ipsos are assessing residents’ desire for COVID-19 testing and their access to health care services.

In a statewide survey released by CHCF today, few Californians (0.8%) reported trying and failing to receive a COVID-19 test in the previous week. While 11% of state residents said they would like to get tested for the disease, 68% said they do not need to be tested now.

Californians with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty guidelines (PDF) were more likely to want a COVID-19 test (18% versus 11%). This may reflect the fact that Californians with low incomes are more likely to have chronic conditions that put them at higher risk from complications if they contract the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

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In response to a question about their experience with health care over the last seven days, 68% of Californians said they had not sought care. The survey found some evidence that people are forgoing health care visits over concern about coronavirus. Less than 4% of residents report being unable to access care in a timely manner, saying they either tried and failed to make an appointment or that the wait was longer than they thought reasonable.

Californians with incomes at or below the poverty guidelines were more likely to have seen a health care provider in person in the past week relative to the overall population (18% vs. 10%). However, Californians with low incomes were also more likely to report having to wait longer than they thought reasonable for an appointment. This is consistent with findings of previous surveys showing access challenges among low-income patients.

Changing Rules

In light of state and federal regulations being modified to make more health care providers eligible to be reimbursed for video or phone appointments, CHCF/Ipsos is also tracking the experience of people who visited a health care provider by video or phone. In Friday’s survey, 3.6% of Californians reported having a telehealth appointment in the past week.

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The data released today represent a benchmark. CHCF/Ipsos will continue this survey as the pandemic develops in the coming weeks.

This survey was conducted online in Ipsos’s Omnibus using the web-enabled “KnowledgePanel,” a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the California general population, not just the online population. The study consisted of 1,113 representative interviews conducted among California residents who were at least 18 years old between March 20 and March 25, 2020.The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points.

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