People without health insurance are twice as likely to go without primary and mental health care because of the cost, according to a new survey of Texans by Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation.
The researchers found that in the past year 32 percent of uninsured respondents had not seen a primary care doctor due to costs, compared with 16 percent of adults with health insurance.
Furthermore, 12 percent of uninsured respondents said they had forgone needed mental health care or counseling, compared with six percent of adults with insurance.
“Lack of access to affordable primary and mental health care services are well-documented problems for all Texans, especially the uninsured," said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation and a nonresident health policy fellow at the Baker Institute.
“In the case of primary care, the uninsured may be waiting to seek care when they're sicker and need more intensive and expensive care. That's concerning because basic health care services are usually less expensive and can help prevent more serious health problems. Untreated mental illness is also associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including physical illness."
The findings showed that both insured and uninsured Texans were the most likely to forgo dental care — 34 percent of the uninsured and 23 percent of those with insurance said they skipped dental care due to the expense.
“This isn't surprising because most insurance plans don't include coverage for dental care," said Vivian Ho, the chair in health economics at Rice's Baker Institute and director of the institute's Center for Health and Biosciences, a professor of economics at Rice and a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Uninsured respondents also said that, when they are able to see a doctor, they end up struggling more to pay the bill. In fact, the survey found that 28 percent of uninsured adults said they had difficulty paying medical bills in the past year, compared with 18 percent of insured respondents who said they had the same difficulties.
Researchers also compared the health status of the insured and uninsured. When it comes to physical health, both groups reported similar rates of poor physical health days. However, when asked about poor mental health, a greater percentage of uninsured Texans said they had 11 or more days of poor mental health in the past year.