Archive for September 22nd, 2008

How Will the Current Economic Meltdown Impact Healthcare?

September 22nd, 2008

Not long after the attacks of 9/11, the pundits began to attempt to discern their impact on our every day lives. No one fully understood the domino effect of these actions both nationally and internationally. Who could have predicted the over negative blows on all forms of air travel; the economic spin down, the billions in investments needed or reportedly needed to protect us; and finally, the breakdown of our personal freedoms?

Similarly, as we watched the large investment and mortgage related financial institutions begin their minute by minute trip into no- man’s land, we could only shudder with concern over things like pensions, business investment opportunities, ownership of our homes, and the future of our overall economy. As our government began to move from deregulation to government control and ownership, the hollow words of the past certainly rang out like a clapper-less bell.

Allow business and industry to be free, deregulated, uncontrolled, and we will all be better off, or will we? As we see the results of the cheaters, the liars, and the snake oil salesmen, it becomes abundantly apparent that left unregulated our current business culture is filled with those who don’t play correctly, ethically, or reasonably. As the great grandson of prominent and trustworthy Quaker merchants, it pains me to observe the obvious corruption, corner cutting and lack of ethical conviction present in today’s business world. It is reminiscent of Henry F. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

How will this impact your health? The slide has already begun. As reported in the Wall Street Journal by Vanessa Fuhrmans, “As the credit crunch threatens to throw the economy into a deep slump, Americans are already cutting back on healthcare spending, a sector once thought to be invulnerable to recession.” Visits to physicians, purchases of prescription drugs, and preventive tests are all measurably decreasing. Some people are cancelling their own health insurance to cover the costs of gasoline and consumer goods. Others are just avoiding what they know to be appropriate medications and screenings.

Quest Diagnostics reported in this article that the number of tests ordered for the uninsured fell 8% in the second quarter compared with their normal 1% quarterly growth. OB/GYN visits, according to the same article, dropped 6% in the first quarter alone this year.

It’s not just the uninsureds who are cutting back. “A recent analysis of claims from 250,000 people in several dozen mid-Atlantic employer health plans suggests even people with coverage are cutting back on care.” They reported nearly a 19% cut back in elective knee surgeries, a 6% decrease in pap smears, and a drop in prescriptions for anti-depression of 29%. Actually, that one was the most mystifying for me. It would seem that there would be exponential growth in this area.

This particular snapshot of the future also presented this query: “What’s next: Doctors and health-policy experts worry that by delaying care in the short term, patients will end up paying more in the long term if their health deteriorates.” Deregulated health care which will lead to deregulated health?