U.S. Residents Cut Back on Care Amid Recession
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday examined how many U.S. residents have begun delaying nonessential medical care because of issues related to the current economic recession. As of February, an estimated 3.7 million working-age U.S. residents, including 500,000 California residents, have lost their health coverage since the beginning of the current economic recession, according to the Times. In addition, California physicians say people who have health insurance with high deductibles or costly copayments -- both of which have increased over the last few years -- appear to be seeking less nonessential care. Physicians also have said people with insurance coverage are forgoing routine screenings and examinations because of cost.
A California HealthCare Foundation survey released last month found that 43% of Californians ages 50 and younger surveyed said they had postponed care for a chronic health condition because of cost. Howard Krauss, president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, said, "If you're feeling well, the easiest thing to save money on is not going in for your mammogram or colonoscopy."
Ignoring routine or preventive care can have "serious consequences" for patients, such as cancer not being found until late stages or blood pressure levels becoming high enough to cause a stroke, according to the Times. Emergency department physicians have noticed signs of people rationing care. "People are coming in sicker, often with a chronic disease which had been under control but has gone out of control," Brian Johnston, medical director of the ED at White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles, said (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 4/8).