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Expert: How Houstonians are affected by health care affordability

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

If you have felt like everything is getting more expensive lately — even at the doctor’s office or picking up your prescriptions — you’re not alone.

New survey data from health marketplace Sesame shows that Houston residents are on the front lines of the health care affordability crisis. Though the uninsured rate nationwide is at a record low, there are still more than 26 million Americans without any health insurance — and millions more on high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). Since tens of millions of Americans are either uninsured or underinsured, it’s no surprise that local residents are feeling the pinch in their wallet with medical expenses — and many are holding off on making their annual doctor’s appointments as a result.

Let’s break down the data a bit further:

In a survey of 450 Houston-based consumers, ages 18 and over, 68 percent of respondents admitted they have skipped a doctor’s appointment, 59 percent have skipped filling a prescription, 55 percent have avoided getting an x-ray or lab, and 68 percent skip the dentist — all due to high costs. These numbers are shockingly even higher for Houstonians with chronic medical conditions — with 74 percent skipping the doctor or dentist, 68 percent holding off on prescriptions and 63 percent avoiding x-rays or labs.

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

Medical debt is another issue plaguing local residents. Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed have medical debt. Of those with debt, 57 percent have more than $1,000 in debt and almost a quarter owe more than $5,000. Medical debt often happens as a result of surprise medical bills, of which 52 percent of Houstonians have received in the last year. The new No Surprises Act passed this year should help with some of these concerns in the future, but it’s important to understand what is protected and what isn’t.

Finally, 15 percent of respondents say they don’t have a primary care doctor, and 9 percent of those with chronic conditions do not. 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.

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Building Houston

 
 

ALLY Energy's sixth annual GRIT Awards, which will honor leaders in the energy industry, will take place on October 26. Photo via ALLY Energy

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and three energy executives have been named first-time winners of lifetime achievement awards as part of ALLY Energy’s sixth annual GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces program.

ALLY Energy says the honorees have demonstrated “a distinguished career championing change in energy and climate in the private or public sector in the areas of technology, policy, and workforce.”

As mayor of Houston, Turner has led efforts to use renewable energy throughout the city.

The other winners of lifetime achievement awards are:

  • Elizabeth Gerbel, founder and CEO of Houston-based EAG Services and EAG 1Source, which provide consulting services for the energy industry.
  • Lorenzo Simonelli, CEO of Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes.
  • Kevin Sagara, executive vice president and group president of San Diego-based utility company Sempra. He is chairman of Sempra-owned San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co.

The lifetime achievement honorees will be recognized October 26 during an event at The Bell Tower in Houston. So will the winners in the GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces program. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Department of Energy official Shalanda Baker.

“This year’s GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces finalists are a diverse cohort of game-changing entrepreneurs, gritty leaders, collaborative teams, and companies committed to combating climate change. The energy workforce is doing great things to transform our energy ecosystem, and we’re excited to spotlight exceptional talent and culture,” says Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of Houston-based ALLY Energy, which provides a workforce development platform for the energy industry.

Among the dozens of award finalists are energy-related organizations or their representatives. These organizations include Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Rice University, Saudi Aramco, Shell, the University of Houston, Syzygy Plasmonics, and Wood Mackenzie.

A complete list of the finalists is available on the ALLY Energy website.

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