By Chris Kramer
As the economy remains stuck in first gear, Americans have tightened their wallets and reduced their spending on clothing, entertainment and transportation. Surprisingly, consumers have also reduced their spending on health care, sometimes quite dramatically.
According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans have “reduced their routine medical care” by a much larger margin during the recession than people in Britain, Canada, France and Germany.
The statistics gathered by the researchers paint a rather dour picture of medical care spending:
This study’s results aligned with the findings of a recent survey performed by the American Hospital Association, which found that the recession has had a significant effect on the country’s medical providers.
According to its report, “[a]bout 70 percent of hospitals report fewer patient visits and elective procedures as family budgets remain tight and patients continue to delay or forgo care.”
The numbers are significant for two reasons. First: Ignoring primary and preventive medical care often leads to more serious - and more expensive - problems in the future. But clearly, medical bills are at the front of many minds, as medical bills continue to be a leading cause of bankruptcy. The most recent reports list medical bills as a major factor in 60 percent of all bankruptcy filings.
According to reports, the new health care law could ameliorate some of the impacts of the recession on Americans’ ability to afford routine medical care and pay their medical bills.
By the end of this decade, the law is supposed to provide insurance coverage for more than 30 million people who are currently uninsured. Further, the law will provide subsidized coverage for people with income up to four times the poverty level.
In addition, the new law aims to prevent insurers from charging deductibles or co-payments for routine preventative services, such as colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations. Such a law will likely reduce the impact of tough economic times on the use basic health care services.
If increased medical costs have ruined your finances, consider contacting a personal lawyer to see if bankruptcy could help you handle your medical costs.