In this recession, the first health line item that Americans are eliminating from their budgets is visits to physicians.

It’s clear that the economic downturn is forcing American health citizens to re-evaluate their demand for health services. Thomson Reuters’ latest survey into consumer health behavior, The Current Recession and Healthcare Consumers, examines these changed behaviors in detail.

Thomson Reuters’ Center for Healthcare Improvement (CHI) began to explore this dynamic in June 2008. At that time, CHI found that survey respondents’ health insurance coverage was eroding and more jobs were being lost in households.

Then out-of-pocket costs increased. As a result, “affordability” was cited by 48% of uninsured households as the reason for the lack of health care insurance.

Postponement, delay and cancelling treatment sharply increased in 2009, when 26% of households cite “cost” as the #1 reason for delaying treatment.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
Looking into the second quarter of 2009, at least 25% of Americans would delay or cancel an elective surgical procedure. Over 15% of people expect to postpone or cancel a visit to a doctor, a diagnostic test, and/or therapy.

The one category of health service that virtually no American would postpone is care for a child.

While people who are unemployed face the hardest time paying for health care, the first chart illustrates an important point that is not intuitive: people at even the highest income category of $100K and up expect to postpone visits to physicians. This statistic demonstrates the underlying high level of anxiety in American households related to both economic security and health insurance security.