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Americans Are Increasingly Avoiding Going to Doctors

Americans Are Increasingly Avoiding Going to Doctors Image

Despite the fact there are increased numbers of insured Americans, fewer are going to the doctor’s office. Why is this happening? The answer is lack of affordability. Even with the benefits of health insurance many are struggling to afford medical costs. Kaiser Health Foundation polls since 2015 show continued rising costs.  37% of those polled report having trouble paying their health insurance premiums, 43% had trouble paying their deductibles and 31% had trouble affording co pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

According to another survey by the West Health Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago between a third and a half of people aged 45 – 59 and a quarter of those 60 or more went without needed health care in the past year due to its cost. Dr Zia Agha, Chief Medical Officer at West Health Institute, further comments on the study saying “80% of the people we surveyed had health insurance, so just having insurance does not make you immune to health care costs.” (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-americans-are-avoiding-the-doctor-2018-04-04)

Additionally, these groups who now tend to avoid doctors do not feel they are getting good value for their medical dollars. In part this is due to a lack of price transparency and lack of health care competition. Consumers of health care have very little information about the cost of care which can lead to making poor decisions that can negatively impact costs. This lack of cost transparency is a large contributing factor to increasing health care costs. It doesn’t have to be this way. Other countries such as France have prices on the walls in doctors’ offices while in Australia you are entitled to a binding estimate prior to having elective surgery.

The results of the survey show a dangerous health trend for people age 45 to 59 (members of Generation X and boomers):

  • 49% did not go to the doctor last year when sick or injured
  • 45% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment
  • 43% did not go to a dentist when they needed treatment
  • 40% went without a routine physical or other preventive health care
  • 30% did not fill a prescription or took less than the prescribed dose of medicine

While the percentages were somewhat less dramatic for people 60 or older (boomers aged 60 to 72 and Americans older than 72) this may be in part because those 65 and older have Medicare. The numbers however are still a cause for concern:

  • 30% did not go to a dentist last year when they needed treatment
  • 27% went without a routine physical or other preventive health care
  • 25% did not fill a prescription or took less than the prescribed dose of medicine
  • 25% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment
  • 24% did not go to the doctor when sick or injured

Americans should not have to pick their financial health over their physical health or visa-versa. Avoiding routine medical checkups can lead to disastrous long term consequences both for the person as well as for the stability of the medical care system as a whole. Chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension left under treated or untreated become a more magnified problem in the form of heart disease, kidney failure and increased risk of stroke. Early intervention in these chronic diseases is the moment where medical treatment can help the most and put less strain on the medical care system. It is a lot like your financial health. They earlier you begin planning and saving for retirement years the better the outcome will be. In fact the two, financial and physical health, are interconnected because of health care costs.

53% of the overall survey respondents faced one or both of the following financial problems in the last year due to health care costs; they had to deplete their savings or they had to incur credit card debt. They had to choose between their physical and financial well being. They had to go into debt or not save money if they opted for health care treatment.

We help families plan ahead to avoid the financial devastation that can result from the high costs of health care. If you would like to learn more, please contact our office to set up a time to meet. We look forward to hearing from you!

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