Poll Shows Health Care Divide In Florida

Mar 8, 2016

A new poll shows that Floridians are divided about how their health care has changed in the two years since much of the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect.

By contrast, nationwide, a majority said their personal health care has pretty much stayed the same in the past two years, according to the national poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The split between the number of people saying their health care is getting better and those saying is worse is more distinct in Florida than any other place in the country, said study co-director Dr. Robert Blendon, who is senior associate dean for policy translation at Harvard's School of Public Health. 

“It’s as if there’s a group in Florida where things are just working out terrifically, and things getting better in care for them," said Blendon, who oversees the Harvard Opinion Research Program. "And there’s another group in Florida who are as if they were in a different state. Things are worse for them.”

According to the survey that asked participants to share their personal experiences and opinions about health care, 18 percent of Floridians said their care got better in the past two years, 13 percent said it got worse and 65 percent said it stayed the same.

When compared to the nation as a whole, the study notes, the difference is statistically significant.

It’s hard to pin down the reason for the sharp division, Blendon said.

"There are a lot of things going on at the same time: premium costs, insurance coverage, more people finding it difficult to get a physician,” he said.

"Florida has one of the largest proportions of people living in the state who have no regular doctor. It's three in 10,” Blendon said. “It's larger than the national numbers, which means when people need care, they don't have a regular source to go."

According to the poll that asked people to share their personal experiences and opinions about health care, about a fifth of Floridians who do have a regular doctor said it's become more difficult to see that doctor.  More than half said it was because the doctor didn't have any available appointment times.

Health News Florida and NPR will have more on this survey throughout this month.

Lottie Watts is a reporter and producer with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.