U.S. Residents Cut Back on Health Care Spending in Economic Downturn
U.S. spending on health care services is "under pressure" as Americans are "cutting back on health care," an area of the economy "once thought to be invulnerable to recession," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to IMS Health, the number of prescriptions filled decreased by 0.5% from a year earlier in the first quarter of 2008 and by 1.97% from a year earlier in the second quarter.
Walgreen CEO Jeffrey Rein earlier this month at an investor conference said that the pharmacy industry this year has experienced the "tightest prescription market" in his 27-year career.
In addition, the number of physician visits has continued to decrease since the end of 2006. Physician visits deceased by 1.2% from July 2007 to July 2008, according to IMS Health.
A survey of 686 consumers released last month by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that 22% of respondents avoided physician visits because of cost concerns.
An analysis of health insurance claims from 250,000 employees enrolled in several dozen employer-sponsored health plans in the mid-Atlantic area found that those workers have sought fewer health care services. The analysis, recently conducted for the Journal by D2 Hawkeye, found that those employees sought fewer preventive or nonacute health care services, despite minimal changes to their benefits or cost-sharing requirements.
Health care policy experts said that "patients' short-term care cutbacks could lead to more medical problems and higher spending down the road" and that admissions to hospitals and emergency departments "could eventually spike" as more patients "forgo screenings or wait until minor medical problems blow up into serious complications," according to the Journal (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 9/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.