Staying Healthy in a Tough Economy

With the current economy still in turmoil, it is difficult for many Americans to afford health care. Visits to doctors are down 10 percent to 15 percent and many individuals are not taking their medicines as prescribed. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to lessen the burden while facing tough economic times.

While many individuals are dealing with cutbacks, it is important that health care remain a top priority, says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health.

Approximately one in nine individuals is cutting pills, taking them every other day or doing something the doctor did not recommend. Fendrick says, “Cutting back on health care without consulting your clinician is a very risky decision. It may not only have an impact on your health, but also have a worsening economic consequence that will lead to greater costs down the road when minor health concerns become major health issues.”

Fendrick suggests that people continue to follow up with their recommended screenings and immunizations and consult their clinicians before cutting back on health care. Although these preventative measures may cost you now, they are among the most important investments you can make to protect your health and may save you money in the long run.

There are affordable programs available to help individuals facing economic difficulties. Ask your doctor’s office or search online for information about decreasing or eliminating the costs of health insurance and prescription medications.

During an economic crisis, individuals with and without insurance tend to use the emergency room as a form of primary care. However, doing so could take a spot from someone who truly needs emergency care, while also compromising your own care.

“You should really think about going to your primary care physician who knows your medical history, coordinates your follow up care and interacts with other doctors to make sure you’re getting the highest quality care possible at the lowest cost,” says Fendrick.

While the economy is forcing individuals to make difficult choices Fendrick puts it in perspective: “Remember your health is your most important asset, not your money.”

Tips for healthy health care spending:

1. Continue to adopt healthy lifestyles: diet and exercise can help stave off many diseases.
2. Ask your doctor if prescription medications are available in generic forms.
3. Keep up-to-date with recommended screening tests, such as mammograms, colonoscopies or immunizations.

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Resources:
UMHS Financial Assistance: http://www.med.umich.edu/1toolbar/support/FA.htm
UMHS News: Children, adults using discount generic Rx programs: http://www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2008/poll9.htm
UMHS News: Pill-splitting study looks at cost-saving step: http://www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2007/split.htm

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