Editorial

Short-term saving can translate into long-term suffering

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

As the cost of healthcare rises, more of the cost is being shifted to consumers in the form of higher deductibles.

The consumers naturally avoid all the expenses they can, but that often includes routine checkups and visits to primary care providers at the point when health problems are most effectively, and economically, addressed.

That can end up costing both the healthcare insurer and consumer dearly in the long run.

How bad is the problem?

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, adults with commercial health insurance are visiting primary care providers less often than the did 10 years ago.

The study of 142 million visits to primary care physicians showed that visits declined by 24%, and the proportion of adults who never visited a primary care physician in any given year grew to 46%.

Predictably, the decline was greatest among young adults without chronic conditions, those living in lowest income areas, and those for whom cost was an issue.

However, visits to specialists remained stable, and visits to alternative venues such as urgent care clinics were up nearly 47%, with 48% of those in the study visiting such clinics.

Other surveys indicate 40% of Americans skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the last 12 months due to cost, and another 32% were unable to fill a prescription or took less of a medication because of the cost.

And itís not just family physicians who are involved; one in three Americans skipp visits to the eye doctor due to costs, and 42 percent of Americans donít see a dentist as often as they would like.

With many of us facing new, higher-deductible health insurance bills this year, we need to remember Benjamin Franklinís sage advice, about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.

And, health insurance executives and elected officials who shape public policy should steer away from short-term savings at long-term expense, both in dollars and public health.

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