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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

 
 

With Clutch, connecting brands with creators has never been easier and more inclusive. Photo courtesy of Clutch

An app that originally launched on Houston college campuses has announced it's now live nationwide.

Clutch founders Madison Long and Simone May set out to make it easier for the younger generation to earn money with their skill sets. After launching a beta at local universities last fall, Clutch's digital marketplace is now live for others to join in.

The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more. With weekly payments to creators and an inclusive platform for users on both sides of the equation, Clutch aims to make digital collaboration easier and more reliable for everyone.

“We’re thrilled to bring our product to market to make sustainable, authentic lifestyles available to everyone through the creator economy," says May, CTO and co-founder of Clutch. "We’re honored to be part of the thriving innovation community here in Houston and get to bring more on-your-own-terms work opportunities to all creators and businesses through our platform.”

In its beta, Clutch facilitated collaborations for over 200 student creators and 50 brands — such as DIGITS and nama. The company is founded with a mission of "democratizing access to information and technology and elevating the next generation for all people," according to a news release from Clutch. In the beta, 75 percent of the creators were people of color and around half of the businesses were owned by women and people of color.

“As a Clutch Creator, I set my own pricing, schedule and services when collaborating on projects for brands,” says Cathy Syfert, a creator through Clutch. “Clutch Creators embrace the benefits of being a brand ambassador as we create content about the products we love, but do it on behalf of the brands to help the brands grow authentically."

The newly launched product has the following features:

  • Creator profile, where users can share their services, pricing, and skills and review inquiries from brands.
  • Curated matching from the Clutch admin team.
  • Collab initiation, where users can accept or reject incoming collab requests with brands.
  • Collab management — communication, timing, review cycles — all within the platform.
  • In-app payments with a weekly amount selected by the creators themselves.
  • Seamless cancellation for both brands and creators.
Clutch raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Precursor Ventures, Capital Factory, HearstLab, and more. Clutch was originally founded as Campus Concierge in 2021 and has gone through the DivInc Houston program at the Ion.

Madison Long, left, and Simone May co-founded Clutch. Photo courtesy of Clutch

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