Looking at last year's 401(k) statement may make you feel a bit queasy, but what happens if you actually do get sick? Will you still have access to health care?
Visits to doctors are down 10 percent to 15 percent and many individuals are not taking their medicines as prescribed, according to officials at the University of Michigan Medical School. 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 U-M 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, Fenrick says.
"Cutting back on health care without consulting your clinician is a very risky decision," Fendrick said. "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.
While some people may find themselves without health insurance, Fendrick says there are affordable programs available to help individuals facing economic difficulties. He says you should ask your doctor's office or search online for information about decreasing or eliminating the costs of health insurance and prescription medications.
He also discourages people without insurance coverage from seeking routine medical care at hospital emergency rooms.
"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," said 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 include:
• Continue to adopt healthy lifestyles: diet and exercise can help stave off many diseases.
• Ask your doctor if prescription medications are available in generic forms.
• Keep up-to-date with recommended screening tests, such as mammograms, colonoscopies or immunizations.