As health care costs in the last decades have continued to rise, health care accessibility has significantly declined in Wisconsin and across much of the nation, a study said earlier this week. 

A study released Monday performed by the Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found approximately 13 percent of adults in Wisconsin under the age of 65 said they did not seek health care because of high costs in 2010, up from 8.5 percent in 2000.

In 2010, approximately 448,000 people in Wisconsin between the ages of 19 and 64 reported high health care costs resulted in their inability to meet medical needs, the study said. 

Researchers found that over the last decade the percentage of uninsured Americans who said they had an unmet medical need as a result of high costs has increased. There was a particularly large reduction in the share that had dental visits, according to the study.

The number of people in Wisconsin receiving dental visits has gone down steadily in the last decade, the study said. In 2002, 77.8 percent of Wisconsin’s population received dental care, compared to 71.3 percent in 2010.

According to the study, this 6.5 percentage point difference is higher than the nation’s statistics. The share of Americans receiving dental visits was down 3.9 percent from 2002 to 2010.

With respect to health care access as a whole, Wisconsin has followed a pattern similar to the nation. In 2010, 18.7 percent of the nation under the age of 65 claimed not to seek health care due to cost, up from 12.7 percent in 2000, the study said.

“Over the last decade, declines in access to health care for adults overall in Wisconsin, especially those uninsured, mirrors the nation,” said Genevieve Kenney, the study’s lead author.

Despite deterioration of adult access to health care, children generally maintained access over the 10-year period, according to Kenney.

“Over the past decade, the number of uninsured children fell as adults rose,” Kenney said. “Children in this country are more likely to qualify for health insurance.”

The percentage of people in Wisconsin receiving routine checkups has actually increased from 59.2 percent in 2000 to 62.8 percent in 2010, the study said.

According to Kenney, researchers initially believed the recession would be a strong driver in lower access to health care, but that turned out not to be the case.

“But what’s interesting is if you look at the data, you can see that deterioration in health care access started before the recession,” Kenney said. “The recession is not a dominant force.”

The study focused on adults between the ages of 19 and 64. The research took into consideration the role changing insurance coverage distribution has played in trends in health care access and is used to provide the most accurate data, according to the study.

Kenney said the researchers held income, education, race and a number of other factors constant, and they still found access declines differ only slightly over the 10-year period. Access changes held up to economic differences and were uniformly lower during the decade.

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