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The Cost of Skipping Medical Care
July 1, 2022
Read Time - 5 minutes
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Nearly 7 in 10 Houstonians have skipped medical care due to high costs

A new Sesame survey finds that nearly 7 in 10 Houstonians have skipped medical care due to high costs, putting them at risk for poor health outcomes.

Houstonians are on the front lines of the healthcare affordability crisis - whether they know it or not.

With the highest uninsured rate in the country, we surveyed 450 Houston-based consumers, aged 18+, to learn more about their healthcare habits, spending and the tough choices they’re making when it comes to affording basic medical care.

Here’s what we found:
Citing affordability as an issue across the board, 68% admitted they have skipped a doctor’s appointment, 59% have skipped filling a prescription, 55% have avoided getting an x-ray or lab, and 68% skip the dentist - due to high costs. These numbers are shockingly even higher for Houstonians with chronic medical conditions – with 74% skipping the doctor or dentist, 68% holding off on prescriptions and 63% avoiding x-rays or labs.

Almost all respondents (92%) say that rising gas prices and inflation are impacting their ability to afford essential items like rent/mortgage payments or medical bills – and 65% feel extremely impacted by these forces. As a result, 79% are cutting back on transportation expenses, 80% have cut back on grocery and food expenses – and 59% admit they have cut back on medical expenses like filling prescriptions or going to the doctor.

Skipping or delaying medical care can have serious consequences, according to researchers. A Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that 57% of Americans who delayed medical care reported negative health consequences as a result. Experts estimate an additional 10,000 deaths from colon and breast cancer over the next 10 years, due to missed screenings during 2020 alone. For Houstonians to continually miss out on critical screenings, vaccinations, chronic disease management and early detection of new conditions poses a public health threat.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Nearly half (48%) of Houstonians surveyed have medical debt – and of those with debt, 57% have more than $1,000 in debt and almost a quarter owe more than $5,000
  • 52% have received a surprise medical bill in the last year Most residents (32%) are waiting at least a week to be seen for a medical concern by a primary care doctor or nurse; 24% wait at least a month and only 8% can be seen the same day
  • More than a third of respondents did not have an annual physical this year. Cost, lack of transportation and lack of time away from home or work were cited as the biggest barriers to care
  • 15% of all respondents say they do not have a primary care doctor – and 9% of those with chronic conditions do not
  • Houstonians are most “sick of” high prices in healthcare (36%), followed by 23% fatigued by long wait times and 21% by surprise medical bills

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Medical disclaimer

Sesame content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern, it is critical to seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions. If you are facing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room immediately.