Consumers Cutting Down on Health Spending

The Wall Street Journal reports that consumers are spending less on health care.  Prescriptions fell 0.5% last quarter and almost 2% this quarter; 1 in 5 say that they are cutting back on physician office visits, and 1 in 9 say they are cutting back on prescriptions.  The story also includes distressing illustrative anecdotes- like  parents canceling their health insurance so they can afford to self-pay for preventive care for their children. 

Sever financial distress does lower health care utilization -but does it indiscriminately.  Patients say "no" to valuable evidence-based care as well as discretionary and even unnecessary care.    Countries which have had prolonged financial crises (think Russia after the collapse of USSR) have also seen a real loss in population health (including decreased life expectancy)  - probably caused by a combination of impoverishment and lack of access to health care. 

The financial maelstrom will likely lower the overall cost of health care - but this is likely a destructive way to accomplish that goal.