Americans Cutting Back on Medical Care Because of Economic Concerns
Twenty-two percent of U.S. residents have reduced the number of times they visit their physician because of the current economic climate, according to a National Association of Insurance Commissioners survey released on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The poll of 686 consumers, conducted in July, also found that 11% of respondents said they had reduced the amount of prescription drugs they take or the dosage of those medications to make them last longer.
The survey found that 85% of respondents had not made any change to their health policies, while 2% had canceled their coverage entirely.
Over the past several years, U.S. residents have been paying more of their health care costs, primarily because employers are requiring employees to contribute a greater share of health insurance premiums and copayments, or they are changing or reducing benefits, the Chronicle reports.
Michael Potter, a family physician and head of the San Francisco chapter of the California Academy of Family Physicians, said, "There's a lot of evidence that the more patients are required to pay more for their care, the more that they make economic decisions about what to get or what not," adding, "While some of that may be perfectly reasonable and acceptable, what I worry about is people not getting care that is really essential for their health."
Chris Ohman, CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, said, "We know from past economic downturns that employers and individuals tighten their budgets as a whole, but they certainly tighten their health budgets," adding that although health care costs have increased at rates often double or triple the rate of inflation for years, the squeeze feels more significant as the economy worsens.
The survey did not examine details behind consumers' decisions, and it does not track any changes in consumer behavior because NAIC has not conducted similar surveys in the past (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/13).