Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Tough Times Trigger Patients to Skimp on Care

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: Tough Times Trigger Patients to Skimp on Care

Article excerpt

Times are tough. The ailing economy is leading many people to look for ways to stretch their money, including skipping doctor visits, skimping on medicine and putting off tests and procedures.

Making decisions between filling up the car with gas and buying food for the family or refilling a blood pressure prescription, unfortunately, have become common.

More than one in four Americans said the cost of a doctor's visit has forced them to delay needed health care in the past year, including 16 percent who postponed surgery or treatment for a chronic illness, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

A survey by the National Business Group on Health showed that, in an effort to make a drug last longer, 20 percent of employees skipped taking prescriptions and 17 percent cut the dosage or split pills in half.

As a physician, I worry that these short-term care cutbacks could lead to more medical problems and higher spending down the road. For businesses, this can have serious implications as employees who forgo necessary care now could end up costing their employers more because of additional health care costs and increased absenteeism should a minor illness become chronically severe.

Many experts say businesses have been preoccupied about the economy in general from a business perspective and that they may not realize the repercussions of employees' self-imposed cuts in health care utilization.

To help counter this, employers can communicate with their employees to emphasize the importance of doctor visits, preventive screenings and taking prescription medications as prescribed. Below are a few tips to share with employees to help make the most of their health care dollars - and still get quality care.

* An ounce of prevention is best. Employees should be encouraged to receive preventive health care screenings as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Many health insurers, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, use the guidelines set forth by this independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention. Some health plans may cover certain health screenings at 100 percent, so companies should be sure to check with their insurer on these services. …

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