Scrambling to Pay for Health Care (and Foregoing Needed Care)

More news about patients foregoing care due to the national economic malaise.   USA Today has a heart-wrenching article yesterday citing many anecdotes of patients opting to delay needed therapy.  The headline is from a Gallup poll commissioned by the disease management company Healthways showing that surveys of  over 350,000 Americans over the last year show that 21% are “scramble[ing] to pay for medical [and]drug bills.”   The survey also showed that 1/3 of people skipped all dental care last year.

Contrary to what many say, skipping preventive or curative therapy now will not increase overall health care costs over the population, since most medical care we provide is cost-effective rather than cost-saving.   What we will lose is the individual, family, and societal value of the health care that is being skipped.  We are likely to see more preventable morbidity, disability, and even mortality.  See a previous blog on this from last fall before there was general agreement that health care is not recession-proof, and a Washington Post article pointing out how a terrible recession caused huge health care losses in Russia.

This is further evidence that managing health care costs is not important just as a matter of national economic.  Managing health care costs is also critical to maintaining and improving the quality of health care.