Health Nation — 19 April 2012

The sluggish economy has forced millions of Americans to reduce spending on shopping, entertainment and travel. And a new survey reveals they are also cutting back on health care.

The study by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) found more than half of those surveyed (57.3%) considered their budgets first before making health care decisions. Nearly one in three (30.5%) skipped or reduced annual visits to a health care provider as a way to save money. Americans under the age of 60 and those without health insurance were most likely to be cutting corners on health care.

Cutting back on expenses may be necessary for people struggling economically, but physicians warn it should not come at the cost of one’s health.

“Annual and follow-up visits to your primary care physician should never be cut from your budget. Even if you don’t feel sick, the routine screenings conducted during physical examinations can help detect the warning signs of heart disease or other illnesses,” says Rob Danoff, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing in Philadelphia.

If people are struggling financially, Danoff encourages them to ask their doctor about free samples of medication, reduced fees or the locations of free health clinics. “Your physician also can recommend lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and exercising, which can help prevent or better control costly chronic diseases like diabetes later on,” Danoff adds.

The AOA’s online survey of 1069 people found that the health care of many Americans has been impacted by the economy:

  • Nearly one in four (22.4%) said their health has been negatively affected by the economy.
  • 13.3% have lost their health care coverage.
  • Over one in four (27.1%) said they were seeking alternate or free sources of health care.
  • One in five skipped or reduced recommended blood work, lab tests, x-rays, mammograms or other medical tests.
  • Nearly one in five (18.8%) skipped or reduced a prescription medication to save money.
  • One in ten (10.7%) use an expired medication to save money.

The AOA has created a Savvy Patient Checklist to encourage patients to make wise health care decision, even when they’re on a budget. The checklist include questions people can ask doctors and health insurers about ways to save money, such as the availability of free or generic medications and what discounts are available for wellness programs

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About Author

Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

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