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Some Presbyterians cutting back on health care

Most are insured but some have delayed appointments, medication because of financial strain, survey finds

February 17, 2011

LOUISVILLE

Although almost all Presbyterians have health insurance, some have faced financial problems that have compromised their ability to seek or comply with medical treatment, according to data from the office of Research Services.

During the past 10 years, about three in 10 pastors (27 percent) and non-pastoral ministers (32 percent) have, for financial reasons, either delayed making a medical appointment or skipped one already made. About one in eight church members (14 percent) and elders (11 percent) also delayed or skipped appointments.

Financial problems also caused one in eight pastors (12 percent) and non-parish ministers (15 percent) not to take medication prescribed for them, or to take less medication than prescribed. Only 6 percent of members and 8 percent of elders did not take prescribed medication for financial reasons.

These are findings from the May 2010 Presbyterian Panel survey on health.

“Today, most Presbyterians have health insurance, but some know what it’s like not to be able to follow through on medical treatment because of money problems,” said Perry Chang, Presbyterian Panel administrator.

All pastors (100 percent) and all but a handful of members (99 percent), elders (99 percent), and non-parish ministers (98 percent) report having health insurance coverage. At least five in six in each Panel group report having had a general physical exam during the past 12 months.  The same portion describe their physical health as “excellent” or “good.”

“Most Presbyterians say their health is good, and no doubt one reason is that Presbyterian congregations help people attend to their health,” said Chang.

Doctors or other health care providers have told at least half of Presbyterians in each group, during the past 10 years, to engage in more physical activity, improve their diet, reduce their weight or make another lifestyle change.

At least nine in 10 pastors report that their congregation, staff or a group in their congregation has during the past year visited people in the congregation when they were sick or in the hospital, prayed publicly during worship for people who were sick, given people rides to doctors’ or hospital appointments and provided information to members about people who were sick and in need of prayer.

The Presbyterian Panel is made up of randomly chosen Presbyterian church members, elders and ministers who respond to questions on different topics four times a year. The Panel assembles a representative sample every three years and provides a way for church leaders to learn the opinions of rank-and-file Presbyterians.

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