The cost of health care continues to rise every year, making it harder for many people to afford their medical bills. Data collected over the years shows that doctor visits for people under 65 years of age have dropped over 25%. In the years 2008 to 2016, up to 46% of the adults went at least a year without visiting their primary care doctor. Why? Well due to the rising health care costs, people are opting out of going to see their primary care doctor.
The majority of people just cannot afford the out-of-pocket expenses that accompany a visit to the doctor. Costs for things such as copays or lab work can become prohibitively high for many people to afford. However, primary care is effective in prevention of disease, and going without seeing your doctor can exacerbate an existing health condition.
More Money, More Problems
When things go up in price, people tend to shy away from spending the extra money. This does not exclude health care costs. The more money people have to pay, the less likely they are going to go to seek medical attention.
“There is a lot of data showing that when you raise health care costs, people will receive less care,” Dr. Kimberly Rask, chief data officer at Alliant Health Solutions, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. “But it doesn’t mean that they only stop unnecessary care. They will reduce both necessary and unnecessary care.”
“When patients have to pay more, they may pause, and they may not go in if they don’t think it’s that urgent,” says Nadereh Pourat, a professor of health policy and management at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. But health problems can worsen, she adds. “You don’t want them to wait til things get really bad.”
The Benefits of Primary Doctor Visits
A primary care doctor may be able to pick up on, and test for, an underlying problem that a person is unaware of. It can be harmful for people not to see their doctors at least one a year, especially if they have a chronic condition that needs to be managed, such as high blood pressure.
During your annual physical, your doctor will also go over your current medications. This is to determine whether they are working or whether changes need to be made to them. Doctors will also keep you from making the mistake of taking two medications together, which could cause a dangerous drug interaction.
“Primary care has all kinds of benefits,” says Dr. Ishani Ganguli, Harvard assistant professor of medicine and physician in general internal medicine and primary care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Both for patients but also for populations,” Ganguli says. The research shows that people are more healthy when they see a primary care doctor for routine care. Where there are more primary care providers per capita, death rates drop for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other illnesses. Not only do the death rates decrease, but life expectancy goes up.
Although health care costs are on the rise, it is still very important to visit your primary care doctor at least once a year. It is necessary to stay on top of your health, and live a longer life. At the very least, an annual visit will bring you peace of mind. In the most extreme cases, it could save your life.