Economic atmosphere becoming “Kafkaesque” as patients feel financial pinch
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)– A survey of 500 U.S. primary care physicians revealed that 97.8 percent saw a rise in financial concerns among their patients in the past six months, with 94.6 percent reporting their patients rationing and forgoing medications and treatments in the past six months. The poll was conducted on October 24-25 by MDLinx (www.mdlinx.com), one of the U.S.’s largest doctor portals.
“This sort of near unanimity in polling results is almost unprecedented,” said Aki Tomaru, CEO of M3 USA, which owns MDLinx. “The level of concern and even anger in the comments from our responding physicians was quite surprising.”
Doctors expressed frustration with tightening insurance deductibles and options. “Due to restrictive formularies, soon we will be practicing with 1980’s drugs,” said Jim Rodman, a family physician from Brookneal, Virginia. “I wish we were putting the patient first like we were trained.”
Ninety four percent of responding doctors reported patients rationing medications or forgoing treatment due to financial and insurance coverage concerns. “Patients are having to take their medications every other day,” said Dr. Delbert Morales of Greenbelt, Maryland. “For some medications I write double the strength and have them cut in half so medication will last longer.”
Respondents were asked about their patients’ financial concerns over the first six months of 2010. Ninety five percent of respondents said they had invested more time and effort into the financial planning of patients’ treatments in the last six months than at any time previously. “I have many patients choosing between medication, paying bills, and buying food,” said one respondent. “My partners and I are spending much more time (largely not reimbursed) helping patients juggle these issues.” Other doctors expressed frustration about the overall impact of the economy on their practices. “Not only are patients postponing their care, but physician offices are postponing needed equipment maintenance and repair due to worsening practice management costs,” said Dr. Keith Seidenstricker, a partner in a five physician practice in Bakersfield, California. “There is no margin left in our office budget for many necessary items.”
Many physicians expressed pessimism about the future. “The Kafkaesque nightmare is coming,” says Dr. Thomas Augustine, a primary care physician from Orchard Park, New York. “The new labyrinth of bureaucratic regulation will undoubtedly prevent the medical community from pursuing excellence in the delivery of care.”