Question of the Week

April 20 , 2009


While there are always people who make decisions about whether or not to seek medical care based on cost, the number of people who are making critical medical decisions based on price has been going up as the economy has continued to struggle.

"Diabetics are increasingly risking life and limb by cutting back on -- or even going without -- doctor visits, insulin, medicines and blood-sugar testing as they lose income and health insurance in the recession, an Associated Press analysis has found. Doctors have seen a drop in regular appointments with diabetic patients, if they come back at all. ... There are even signs that some patients are choosing less-expensive insulin injections over pricier pills to save money."

While diabetics have been specifically highlighted in recent reports, the problem is affecting all facets of the health care industry.

"One in four Americans said in a survey that someone in the family put off needed health care in the past year because of cost, including 16% who postponed surgery or a doctor's visit for chronic illness. In all, 53% of Americans in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday said they or a family member living with them cut back on health care in one or more ways to save money in the past 12 months. ... Nearly one in four postponed a recommended medical test or treatment. Nearly as many didn't fill a prescription, while 15% cut pills in half or skipped doses of medicine. Seven percent reported problems getting mental health care. Overall, 27% said their household postponed needed medical care."

When people are putting off needed health care, regular check-ups, preventative health care, and health screenings can be seen as even less of a priority. Unfortunately, for those who may potentially have a problem, catching it early can actually lead to better long term health with fewer health care costs.

For just such a reason, organizations and businesses throughout the country have been offering free screenings for various illnesses for years.

"The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) has been partnering with dermatologists across the United States since 1985 to offer free skin cancer screenings. While most screenings occur during the spring, dermatologists volunteer their time throughout the year. If you do not find a screening in your area, be sure to check back later. Listings are updated weekly. ... Many skin cancer screenings are held during May, which is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month. Call in advance, time slots tend to fill up quickly. To find a free skin cancer screening in your area..."

With many struggling with economic strains, finding free, local screenings can mean the difference between early detection and not detecting a problem before it has worsened to the point where it is negatively affecting quality of life.

"The AARP®/Walgreens Wellness Tour launches in April and will deliver free health screenings and health education to communities across the country—with a special emphasis on diverse and underserved areas. This new two-year joint national mobile tour features nine customized buses that will travel across 48 states, visiting more than 3,000 communities. One of the nine buses—called the AARP/Walgreens La Gira Del Buen Vecino—is solely dedicated to Puerto Rico Last year alone, the Wellness Tour provided more than one million free health screenings to over 180,000 customers. Over the next two years the Tour has a goal to deliver more than 2.5 million free health screenings ... No appointment is necessary. Screenings include:
    * Total Cholesterol Levels
    * Blood Pressure
    * Bone Density
    * Glucose Levels
    * Waist Circumference
    * Body Mass Index"

While many screenings are available for otherwise undetectable internal health concerns, there are also screenings available to help people detect problems that can be treated entirely for free before they cause permanent biological damage.

"Date: April 24, 2009
National Alcohol Screening Day® (NASD) is an annual event that provides information about alcohol and health as well as free, anonymous screening for alcohol use problems. The program is designed to provide outreach, screening and education about alcohol's effects on health. Attendees will have the opportunity to complete a brief written questionnaire evaluating their alcohol use and talk privately with a health professional about their results and next steps."

Questions of the Week:
Prior to the current economic downturn, what role have finances played in the health care decisions for you (and those you know)? How have the health care choices of those you know been affected by the current economic situation? How can you help those you know who would benefit from access to free services to find the resources they need?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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