Costs Keep Many Texans from Seeking Dental Care



As health costs keep rising, many people decide to forgo needed treatment. This especially applies to oral health, as 34.5% of Texans who lack insurance skip dental care due to the costs. Perhaps even more troubling, 22.7% of Texans who do have insurance avoid the dentist due to the costs as well.

“This isn’t surprising because most insurance plans don’t include coverage for dental care,” said Vivian Ho, chair of health economics at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy. The organization reported these figures as part of the results of a recent survey it conducted with the Episcopal Health Foundation.

“The Affordable Care Act does not require dental care coverage in Marketplace plans. As with other services, lack of insurance coverage is associated with skipping care,” explained Ho, who also is the director of the Baker Institute’s Center for Health and Biosciences, a professor of economics at Rice, and a professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.

According to the survey, 32% of uninsured adult Texans said they had skipped primary care because of costs in the past year, while 16% of adults who have insurance skipped care due to costs as well. The survey also found that 28% of uninsured adults had trouble paying medical bills in the past year, compared to 18% of insured adults who had the same difficulties.

“In the case of primary care, the uninsured may be waiting to seek care when they’re sicker and need more intensive and extensive care. That’s concerning because basic health care services are usually less expensive and can help prevent more serious health problems,” said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation and a nonresident health policy fellow at the Baker Institute.

The Health Reform Monitoring Survey is a quarterly survey of adults ages 18 to 64 that began in 2013. The latest report comes from surveys administered in Texas between September 2013 and March 2015, with responses from 1,544 Texans. The HRMS was developed by the Urban Institute, conducted by GfK, and jointly funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Urban Institute.