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Recession Requires Prescription as Americans Cut Visits

The one area of American life that was thought to be recession proof isn’t any longer. More and more people are cancelling doctor’s appointments or skipping doses of prescription medication to avoid paying the increasing out of pocket costs.

In one telling but discouraging survey done by the American Optometric Association, 36 percent of Americans are cutting back on seeing their doctors because of the recession. More specifically, 63 percent are skipping visits to their dentist, 59 percent aren’t visiting their primary care physicians, and 52 percent are skipping the eye doctor’s office.

Doctors’ are worried that if patients don’t make their different annual appointments that it will end up costing more in the end, physically and financially. One physician, Dr. Glenn Nemec, a family doctor at the Monticello Clinic said “that about a dozen of his patients have been hospitalized in the last three months as a result [of stopping their prescription medications].” Recently one patient of Dr. Nemec’s was even hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer after he stopped taking his preventative medicine.

The numbers are quite powerful as they show who is being affected. When the statistics are being grouped by ethnicity, 49 percent “[of Hispanics] indicated they are visiting doctors less often, compared with African Americans (36 percent) and Caucasians (33 percent).” When broken down by gender, women are going to the doctor’s less at 38% versus the 32% percent of men skipping.

Another, factor of skipped doctor’s visits may have to do with the federal program Cobra. This program was extended to cover 65% of the cost of the coverage and allowed the unemployed to keep their insurance for up to 15 months. However, many have met their limit and have had to drop the program. In addition, people that have been unemployed since the end of May don’t qualify for the subsidies.

Skipping the doctor’s office may seem like an easy way to save some money right now, but in the long run it can lead to serious health problems that might require a trip to the hospital.

There are other options rather than visiting your primary care physician, however. For instance, many urgent care centers are becoming more popular because you don’t necessarily need an appointment and in some instances the costs for procedures, such as a check up, can be cheaper than if you visited your normal doctor.

In addition, the American Optometric Association is offering basic eye health screenings and services for those who qualify, and they encourage people to call them at 1-800-766-4466 for more information.

AOA survey
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Wall Street Journal

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