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Thursday, October 25, 2007
Higher Health-Care Costs Are Forcing Americans To Change Behavior
Kristen Gerencher is a reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Concerned about affordability and feeling the financial sting of higher cost-sharing in their health plans, more Americans are changing their personal health behavior in ways that are likely both good and bad, according to a new study.
More than six in 10 Americans with health insurance, or 63%, said they saw an increase in their health plans' out-of-pocket costs in the past year, according to a survey of 1,000 people 21 and older from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group in Washington, and research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates.
Among these people, 81% said their greater financial responsibility motivated them to try to take better care of themselves, up from 71% who said that in 2005. Two-thirds said they tried to talk to the doctor more carefully about treatment options and costs compared with 57% who did so two years ago.
The number of people being more discriminating about doctor visits also grew -- 64% reported they only went for more serious conditions or symptoms, up from 54% in 2005. Half delayed going to the doctor this year, compared with 40% who used that tactic two years ago. Twenty-eight percent skipped or passed on filling doses of their prescribed medications, up from 21% two years ago.
It's impossible to discern from the study what the outcomes of those behaviors were, but the overall trend suggests people are being more mindful of their care and its costs, said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI's health research program.
"They're becoming engaged on some level, more so than they've been in the past," he said. "That's really the goal of what employers and insurers are trying to do -- to get them to think more about their decisions and be more active in their health care."
Continue reading this article here.