Non-PC: Is Recession Good For HealthCare?

I am sure this is not a politically correct topic to discuss, but the thought crossed my mind.  Since 75% of the US thinks we are in a recession, I think we can assume that people will act as if we are in a recession.  Never mind the economist definition of whether it’s a recession.

So, what are the implications for healthcare:

  • If I am cost conscious, I should be more willing to accept generics and mail. (pro)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may be more willing to go to a clinic versus a physician or urgent care.  (neutral)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may be more likely to skip doses or not refill my medications. (con)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may not join a gym but instead workout outside.  (neutral)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may not be preventative in my care.  (con)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may be more willing to accept free services offered through my employer or plan. (pro)
  • If I am cost conscious, I may take advantage of all the web tools and member portals which exists.  (pro)

In the big picture, there is a chance that a recession could push individual health insurance faster.  Just like Medicare Part D was a catalyst, a recession could change the employer sponsored healthcare paradigm and drive people to find insurance for themselves.  Making that happen quickly will be an issue.

3 Responses to “Non-PC: Is Recession Good For HealthCare?”

  1. To live healthier keeps a lot of disease at bay, and might come out cheaper not only in health care costs but also at the grocery store.

    Sleep more, eat less (and focus more on vegetables), do good for others, walk a bit, laugh a bit and have sex often – advice from a doctor.

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

  2. Correcton of error! This statement:

    If I agree with it I will generate between $500 and $1,500 more per year in medical claims than someone who disagrees with the statement.

    Should have read:

    If I disagree with it I will generate between $500 and $1,500 more per year in medical claims than someone who agrees with the statement.

  3. I like the way you address the complexity of the problem in terms of the many types and combinations of behavioral outcomes that might result from a slowing economy. This kind of multidimensional thinking is missing from health care today. You also point out that it is not clear how one dimension—such as cost consciousness—can shape the way other decisions are made. Does being cost conscious mean I will work out at home and not refill prescriptions and use more online tools and go to clinics instead of doctor’s offices and prefer generic medications by mail and not care about prevention? In other words, can one dimension shape and dictate a host of others?

    The data says no. The issue of cost consciousness extends into health care issues differently depending on the type of person. About 16% of U.S. adults are naturally cost-conscious with respect to health care spending, even in the best of times! And we better be glad they’re such a big group because they demand health care at a rate that is 7% below the average. If they demanded care consistent with the population, the nation’s health care costs would go up over $3 billion dollars a year. In this segment of adults, the cost conscious dimension has predictable associations with many others. Their care seeking and health behaviors are fairly well mapped:

    • I will stop taking a medication because of the expense
    • I will go to the cheapest care center that doesn’t require an appointment.
    • I won’t go to the doctor because most of the time all I get is a pat on the back and a bill.
    • If I pay for a prescription, how do I even know it’s a real one?
    • I want the cheapest prescription I can get. I don’t care if its name brand or not.
    • My preventive care is focused on keeping me out of the doctor’s office.
    • I’m not big on gyms and exercise. I’ll think about doing sit-ups when I watch T.V. Yeah, I’ll definitely think about it.
    • I’ll use free health services when I need them, but not before I need them.
    • I go online and use web-tools looking for low cost alternatives

    The issue is–will the slowing U.S. economy create more of these types? Not likely. The patterns that define health care behavior and care seeking are fairly independent of economic issues. If I make $100k or year or more, I am just as likely to demand health care services at rates 30% above average as I am to demand services at 20% below average. It’s not about my economic state. It’s about my priorities. It’s about how I respond to a statement like this: “I only seek health care when I am really sick or injured.” If I agree with it I will generate between $500 and $1,500 more per year in medical claims than someone who disagrees with the statement. This difference is verified by years of health plan claims across many diverse populations. That issue of care-seeking propensity is not an economic issue. It’s a cognitive discernment issue related to when a person perceives that its time to seek care.

    Right now the loss of employer sponsored health coverage will mean that many people with major health problems will not be able to get health insurance. If you have a preexisting condition you can’t buy private coverage because the health plans won’t sell it to you. Or if they will sell it to you, it will be for a monthly premium only Britney Spears can afford.

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