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Recession Affecting Access to Health Care: Survey

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Many Americans are worried about their ability to pay for health care and are suffering health problems because they're doing without needed preventive care, according to a survey that looks at the impact the recession is having on access to health care.

The American Academy of Family Physicians' poll of members found that almost 90 percent reported their "patients have expressed concerns recently over their ability to pay for their health care needs." The survey also found that 58 percent of respondents said they'd seen an increase in appointment cancellations, and 54 percent said they were seeing fewer total patients since January 2008.

Among the other findings:

* 60 percent of family doctors reported they'd "seen more health problems caused by their patients forgoing needed preventive care."
* 73 percent said they'd seen an increase in uninsured patients visiting their offices.
* 64 percent reported a decrease in the number of employer-sponsored/privately insured patients.
* 87 percent said they'd seen a significant increase in patients with major stress symptoms since the beginning of the recession.
* 66 percent said they were taking actions to help their patients manage health care needs during the recession, including discounting fees, increasing charity care, providing free screenings, and moving patients to generic prescriptions.

"The survey found that patients are cancelling or deferring important preventive screenings such as pap smears, mammograms and colonoscopies," Dr. Ted Epperly, AAFP president, said in a news release. "They also are failing to return for recommended follow-up visits or refill medications that are vital to managing their chronic conditions. Rather than forgoing needed medication altogether, some patients opt to cut their prescriptions, without their physician's knowledge, to make them last longer."

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