No money and no health

Times are tough, and over the last couple of years Americans have decided to forego health care expenses in lieu of basic expenses and the costs to economically survive.

It can be expensive to see a family doctor or have lab work done, and it can be even more costly to have medical procedures performed if you have limited insurance coverage. With all the advances in medical care, the cost to be well has certainly increased over the past ten years. However, the cost to stay well is even greater when considering the absence of preventive care.

MCOL reports that 75% of US consumers say the economic slowdown has impacted their health care spending. According to findings from a new survey published by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, when consumers were asked about the impact of the economy and rising health care costs:

  • In the United States, three in four (75%) consumers say the recent economic slowdown has impacted their health care spending.
  • Forty-one percent are more cautious about spending, 20% have cut back on spending, and 13% say they have reduced their spending considerably.
  • Sixty-three percent say their monthly health care spending limits their household's ability to purchase other essentials, such as housing, groceries, fuel, and education.
  • In an effort to save money, 36% of prescription medication users say they asked their doctor to prescribe a generic drug instead of a brand name drug.
  • One in four (25%) U.S. consumers skipped seeing a doctor when sick or injured.

Some analysts have suggested that the lower-than-expected utilization is a more fundamental change rather than a fleeting one. Due to structural changes in healthcare plans over the years, such as higher co-pays and other fees, consumers have steadily borne more of the healthcare costs. The extended downturn, and its associated job losses, makes this situation more unusual. Typically, when people come back to work, they then use health care services. Elective services are usually postponed when individuals are out of work.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, health care costs appeared to greatly influence family budgets, with some families having to choose between paying medical bills and buying items such as food. Economic woes and rising health care costs are leading many Americans into financial disaster, prompting more and more people to forgo necessary medical treatments -- and even marry to get health insurance. Many people view health and the economy as separate issues, but the cost of health care is a significant pocketbook issue for many families and paying for health care has become a key dimension of the public's economic concerns.  People tend to stay with -- or join -- employers who offer health benefits.

Also, the new PPACA will cost some employers money, particularly large ones. Employers aren't required to offer insurance; but if they don't and their workers make low wages and qualify for new tax credits to buy insurance, then the employers will have to pay a fine. (This part of the legislation does not go into effect until 2014.) But even so, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that fines imposed on large employers will affect low-wage workers the most. There is a strong possibility that employers will exclude certain workers for health care coverage altogether as it likely will be cheaper to pay the fine than cover nominal and lower wage employees.

So, what are some viable options? Source inexpensive health care plans online with reputable companies. Ask your employer for ways to cut your costs for coverage. Talk with others in social network forums to find insurance plans that help families save money. If you cannot afford insurance, buy a discount medical plan membership from a reliable company like Careington, United Health, and other qualified programs. Although they are not insurance plans, typically you will save a lot of money with participating health care providers. And, they are very inexpensive to purchase. 

Another way to save money is to prioritize your medical issues to manage your costs, and act on preventive measures to help maintain a reasonably healthy lifestyle.  Be pro-active with your health. It’s your life and your money. Make them count.

About the Author
Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts’ professional sales background includes 30 years of sales and marketing in the tax, insurance, and investment markets. Mark is a licensed life, health and accident insurance agent in all 50 states and D.C., for insurance products, and discount health plans. He serves as Manager of National Accounts at Careington International ( www.careington.com ). Additionally, Mark has been writing a health care blog for the past three years, found at www.yourbesthealthcare.blogspot.com , which is a topical weblog about various health care issues. He also regularly contributes articles to magazines for both medical and dental topics both in the U.S. and the UK. You can reach Mark at markr@careington.com.

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