Financial Crisis Keeps the Doctor Away; 25% in U.S. Postpone Medical Care Due to Cost, New Survey Finds

The nation’s worsening financial crisis has forced millions of Americans to skip needed trips to the doctor because they cannot afford the costs, a new nationwide survey has found.

More than one in four Americans said the cost of a doctor’s visit has forced them to put off needed health care in the past year, including 16 percent who postponed surgery or treatment for a chronic illness, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey contacted 1,204 adults over the phone from February 3-12, 2009.

Overall, just over half of people contacted said they or a family member living in the same household has foregone health care in some way on one or more occasions in the past year due to financial issues. The economic recession, already blamed for a skyrocketing national debt, millions of job losses, and a stock market resembling a roller coaster, now threatens to dramatically worsen the physical well-being of millions of Americans who are forced to put off or skip altogether necessary medical treatment.

Many Turning to Home Remedies

Instead of costly doctor’s visits, many survey respondents – about one in three — said they and others in their homes are relying on home remedies and cheaper over-the-counter drugs to treat illnesses. Almost one in four has not been able to fill a prescription due to the expense, while 15 percent said they have cut pills in half or skipped doses to make prescriptions last longer, according to the survey.

In many cases, such tactics can have devastating effects and cause increased pain and injury, particularly in diabetics or people on heart medications, which require steady and consistent doses to work correctly. Skipping heart pills or diabetes treatments can have deadly consequences.

Common Disease Treatments Being Skipped

Survey respondents reported skipping or delaying medical treatments for some of the most common diseases in the United States. One in 10 said they had put off seeing a doctor for a chronic illness like diabetes or asthma, while six percent postponed minor surgery in the doctor’s office and five percent delayed major surgery requiring an overnight hospital stay.

Another 19 percent each said they had skipped a doctor’s visit for temporary illness or preventive care in the past year due to economic strains, the survey found.

Survey Finds Support for Health Care Reform

People contacted for the survey had high support for President Barack Obama’s call to reform the U.S. health care system. About 62 percent said health care reform was more important now than ever before, while 59 percent said they believe the country would be better off with reformed health care. Republicans tended to be more skeptical of the idea of health care reform than Democrats or Independents, the survey said.

The Time for Health Care Reform Has Come

With millions of Americans delaying needed doctor’s visits due to the miserable financial climate, the need for major changes to the health care system is crystal clear. In the richest nation in the world, citizens must resort to home remedies or less effective medical care because they cannot afford to visit their physician. In many cases, people who have been laid from their jobs and lost their medical benefits cannot bear the enormous costs of health care on their own.

The new survey results should be a rallying call in Washington, D.C. and lead to quick and effective changes to the nation’s health care system, which has become a national disgrace on many fronts.

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