Millions struggle to pay for care, face tough decisions

The toll patients' financial constraints put on practices as of late has been a big one, as FiercePracticeManagement has reported. In fact, roughly 80 million people--43 percent of America's working-age adults--did not go to the doctor or seek other medical services because of cost, according to the Commonwealth Fund's 2012 biennial health insurance survey.

Key findings of the report included the following:

  • While the un- and underinsured had the most trouble affording healthcare, 28 percent of those surveyed with good insurance chose to forego care because of cost.
  • Adults cut back on care in various ways, including avoiding the doctor when they had a medical problem (nearly 30 percent), not filling a prescription or skipping recommended tests or services (more than 25 percent), and not obtaining needed specialist care (20 percent).
  • Among those with chronic conditions, 28 percent said they did not fill prescriptions or skipped doses because they couldn't afford to pay for their medications.

"Costs of health care have gone up faster than wages," said David Blumenthal, president of The Commonwealth Fund, in a statement obtained by CNNMoney.

Meanwhile, a separate survey conducted for health-plan-ranking website HealthPocket, suggested that more than a third of patients are willing to change physicians to obtain more affordable care, UPI.com reported. While 34 percent of patients polled for this survey said they'd change doctors to save money, previous research from management consulting firm Accenture found this group to be far smaller, at 23 percent.

Nonetheless, both firms found that significant numbers of patients were at least willing to consider changing health plans, seeing nurse practitioners instead of doctors or switching to generic prescriptions to save out-of-pocket costs.

"Our poll found that while some consumers feel strongly about keeping their current physician [40 percent], many others are surprisingly open to moving around based on cost," Steve Zaleznick, executive director for consumer strategy and development at HealthPocket, said in a statement. "Regardless of what happens with the Affordable Care Act in terms of healthcare premiums, consumers will need to investigate their options to find ways to save money and determine whether their current doctor will still be covered under the plan they want."

To learn more:
- see the post from UPI.com
- access the report from the Commonwealth Fund
- see the post from CNNMoney

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