Newspaper article MinnPost.com

As Recession Holds Down Health Spending, Have You Made Choices to Forgo or Delay Treatment?

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

As Recession Holds Down Health Spending, Have You Made Choices to Forgo or Delay Treatment?

Article excerpt

Has the economy forced you to forgo or put off medical care? Have you postponed care or gone without it -- even if you have insurance?

Evidence that you either have or will is mounting, according to local health economists and social welfare researchers.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that health-care spending, as a share of the overall economy, stabilized in 2010. People may be using less care for a variety of reasons, including more prevalent cost-shifting provisions in insurance policies, job loss and greater awareness of the true cost of care.

But the economy is doubtless a factor, the report found.

"Although medical goods and services are generally viewed as necessities, the latest recession has had a dramatic effect on their utilization," the Associated Press (via the Star Tribune) quoted the report as saying. "Though the recession officially ended in 2009, its impact on the health care sector appears to have continued into 2010."

Trend seems likely to hold or accelerate in MN

Minnesota health officials agree. Though they won't have a corresponding local statistical portrait until June, researchers and economists say 2009 numbers [PDF] suggest the trend will either hold true or be accelerated here.

As in so many other arenas, Minnesotans have had farther to fall. In 2007, almost 81 percent of working-age Minnesotans had access to employer-sponsored insurance. By 2009, only 71 percent, did and a significant number had been forced onto high-deductible plans. Nationally, the number fell by 8 percent.

According to Minnesota Compass, a social indicators tracking project spearheaded by Wilder Research, average spending on health care by household in the 13-county Twin Cities metro area fell from $3,834 in 2007 to $3,354 in 2008 and $3,314 in 2009. At the national level, household spending on health care rose from $2,952 in 2007 to $2,966 in 2008 and $3,126 in 2009. …

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