More than half of renters have delayed medical care because they could not afford it, according to a first-of-its-kind survey.
According to a new national survey conducted by Enterprise Community Partners Inc. (Enterprise) on the relationship between housing and health, more than half of renters surveyed delayed care because they couldn’t afford it. 100 percent of medical professionals surveyed have had at least some of their patients express concerns about affordable housing.
The survey is the first to examine renters’ capacity to afford health care and medical experts’ perceptions of those issues. It indicates that renters who pay a significant percentage of their income for housing frequently face difficult choices between rent and health care.
The findings paint a stark picture of the state of health care and affordable homes in the U.S. The survey finds:
Every one of the 500 medical professionals polled reported that at least some of their patients had indicated concerns about cheap housing. 31% saying that at least one-quarter of their patients had expressed concerns about finding an affordable place to live. This figure rises to 42 percent among medical practitioners who see a higher proportion of low-income patients.
Rent is the most significant bill for nearly all lower-income renters (95 percent). Yet 78 percent of medical professionals believe their lower-income customers would prioritize their medical expenditures over rent.
More than half (54 percent) of renters surveyed have delayed medical care specifically because they couldn’t afford it.
Preventive regular check-ups (42 percent), seeking therapy while unwell (38 percent), and purchasing over-the-counter drugs were the most often postponed types of treatment among those who delay care due to affordability (35 percent).
Less than half (48%) of lower-income respondents are pleased with healthcare accessibility where they live. This is according to 44% of medical professionals.
“No one should have to choose between paying their rent and their healthcare,” said Laurel Blatchford, president of Enterprise Community Partners. “Thousands of people make that difficult choice every day. That is incorrect. We’re making it easier for tenants to get the health care they need by collaborating with health care organizations.”
Findings show that people who pay more than half of their monthly income for housing are more likely to have to make uncomfortable choices between housing and health care. Respondents who are severely rent burdened stated the following:
- 83 percent said they prioritize paying rent before anything else, in contrast with one percent prioritizing health care costs.
- Compared to 34% of all renter respondents, over half (45%) have not followed a treatment plan recommended by a healthcare expert due to financial constraints.
- A normal exam was postponed by nearly one-third (31%) of severely rent-burdened respondents because they couldn’t afford it. Compared to 23 percent of all renter respondents.
- Respondents who are severely rent burdened indicate low satisfaction with housing-related aspects that affect their health. Including appropriate access to outdoor spaces (47 percent), lack of exposure to indoor toxins (48 percent), and air quality (38 percent).
- Financial stress is the issue in their lives that affects their mental health the most, according to 89 percent. At the same time, 92 percent of medical professionals state that when they counsel their patients to lessen their stress. The most common source of stress is money.
"Whether it's poorly constructed or maintained housing that makes its people sick, stress from having to move frequently, or skipping critical care and medicine to make rent, our health is intimately linked to home," said Brian Rahmer, vice president, Health and Housing, Enterprise. "This poll is the first to properly detail how these difficulties affect both tenants and medical professionals, and it will aid in collaboration between the health and housing sectors to improve lives. This link between health and housing must stay at the forefront of our joint efforts to achieve health justice." The poll is part of Health Begins with Home, a nationwide Enterprise program aimed at leveraging the power of affordable housing to build healthier families and stronger communities. The effort brings together cross-sector partners to promote health as a primary priority in the building and preservation of affordable housing, as well as to elevate housing as an important tool for enhancing resident and community health. The poll was performed in collaboration with Wakefield Research. The online renter study interviewed 1,000 adult renters in the United States, 500 of whom have household earnings of $50,000 or less. The online medical professional survey included 500 doctors, nurses, and physician assistants from the United States.