Cost leads more patients to compromise on healthcare

It's not just would-be hospital patients putting off medical care because of cost concerns. According to the latest numbers from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, physician practices have also experienced significant slowdowns. Most notably, 79 percent of 4,008 patients surveyed visited a physician or health professional in the previous year, down from 85 percent in 2009.

The possible good news: According to the survey, the percentage of patients who decided not to see a doctor when they were sick or injured declined, going down to 20 percent in the 2010 survey from 25 percent in 2009.

However, cost was more frequently cited as a reason for people not to visit a physician. Among those without insurance, 74 percent, up from 70 percent in 2009, said cost was the main reason for skipping care. Overall, 40 percent of respondents said they delayed care because of cost, compared to 38 percent in 2009.

Insurers have noticed their patients' cutbacks, as most of the largest shareholder-owned health plans reported lower-than-expected utilization in the first half of 2010. The trend was driven in part by a flu season that was milder than expected, which drove down every insurer's medical-loss ratio, reports American Medical News.

Patients also are struggling to cover the costs of their prescription drugs, according to the results of Consumer Reports' annual prescription drug survey, released yesterday. In the past year, 39 percent of the 1,150 adult respondents currently taking at least one prescription drug reported taking some action to reduce costs. Overall, 27 percent failed to take a drug as prescribed, for example, by not getting a prescription filled (16 percent), taking an expired medication (12 percent) or sharing a prescription with someone else to save money (4 percent).

To learn more:
- read the full article in American Medical News
- see the Consumer Reports Health Blog post