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Consumer Survey: U.S. Health Care Costs Rise as Access to Docs and Drugs Falls

Cost burden is shifting to consumers, analysts find

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has helped to boost the number of insured Americans to the highest levels since 2008. But a new survey from New York-based Radius Global Market Research shows that health care costs are shifting to the consumer, resulting in new behaviors.

“Radius GMR’s study shows that as costs shift to consumers, patients are making fewer office visits, switching medicines more often, and using non-traditional offices for care,” said Kathleen Relias, the company’s senior vice president. “These changes are impacting doctors’ ability to have high-quality relationships with their patients. Patients will need greater transparency to make decisions about their health care as they trade off health care with other household expenditures.”

In the survey, one in three Americans ranked rising health care costs among their top-three concerns. Nearly half of all households experienced increased costs compared with the previous year, and more than half anticipated additional increases in the next 6 months. More than half of those who experienced increases in health-care costs during the past year had increases to their premiums. Most households believed they could do better in terms of premiums, with two-thirds of people covered via the PPACA saying they will change plans in 2015.

Approximately one in four households were visiting their doctors less frequently and/or experiencing longer wait times at the doctor’s office. Nearly one-fourth of respondents indicated that it is becoming more difficult to get an appointment with a doctor. In lieu of a timely appointment, most patients were likely to self-medicate either with either over-the-counter or herbal/alternative treatments.

According to those surveyed, one-third of their current prescriptions were not covered by health care insurance. In addition to having reduced access to name-brand drugs, individuals found that prescriptions were more likely to be switched to generics if they were available. Overall, one-fourth of prescriptions were recently changed to generic drugs. Moreover, within the past 6 months, one-third of prescriptions for chronic conditions were switched to generics.

Radius Global Market Research surveyed U.S. adults who had at least joint responsibility for household health care decision-making. The research was conducted in August 2014.

Source: PR Newswire; December 1, 2014.


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