Access to Healthcare: An Analysis of Helena, Montana's Homeless Population
Homelessness is a serious problem in the United States, and access to and uses of healthcare are key topics of public discourse and political platforms. The scientific literature indicates that homeless individuals have less access to healthcare than those who are not homeless. There have not been studies performed on the access to and use of healthcare by the homeless population in Helena; therefore this study examines the relationship between homelessness and healthcare in the Helena area. It was predicted that the individuals who lack resources, such as insurance and financial assets, will have less access to healthcare than individuals who do have these resources, following the theory of fundamental causes by Phelan and Link (2010). It was also predicted that individuals who are homeless will tend to seek medical care at the emergency room most often because of easy access. Thirty-five homeless individuals in the Helena community were surveyed about their access to and use of healthcare. Descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were performed. Descriptive data indicated that the majority of the homeless respondents most often use the emergency room for their medical care. Sex, race, age, and homeless status had a significant effect on location of medical care within the last year. Sex, age, duration, and homeless status had a significant effect on the location of where homeless individuals most often sought medical attention throughout life. A common trend found was that homeless status had a significant effect on where an individual seeks medical attention. Homeless individuals in the Helena area have less access to healthcare and are less likely to seek medical attention from a physician rather than the emergency room. The access to and use of healthcare occurred less frequently for the homeless individuals than those who are not homeless.