North Carolinians Cutting Back on Needed Medical Services During Down Economy, BCBSNC Survey Finds

One in six North Carolinians cutting back on medical services. More than a third now buying fewer prescription medications. Progress on preventive health in North Carolina at risk.

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But there's never a good time to skip preventive health and healthy living.

Chapel Hill, N.C. (Vocus) October 21, 2009

One in six North Carolinians say they are cutting back on needed medical services, including physical exams and health screenings, because of economic concerns, according to a survey by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The survey of North Carolina consumers, released today at BCBSNC's annual State of Preventive Health summit, indicates that some patients might be putting themselves at risk for future health problems.

"The recession and rising health care costs are having an impact on preventive health services - the very services that can help detect or prevent more serious and costly health problems down the road," said Don Bradley, MD, BCBSNC senior vice president and chief medical officer. "But there's never a good time to skip preventive health and healthy living."

BCBSNC's findings on the impact of the recession, increasing unemployment and rising health costs on consumer behavior are included in the company's 2009 State of Preventive Health report, available at http://www.betterhealthnc.com/sph09. Key findings include:

  •     36 percent of North Carolinians say they are buying fewer prescription medications
  •     31 percent are refilling medicines less quickly
  •     18 percent are not going to the dentist
  •     17 percent are not seeking regular physical exams because of economic concerns
  •     17 percent are postponing medical tests or operations
  •     The uninsured are considerably more likely to delay or do without medical services than those with coverage
The survey is in line with other recent findings on preventive health in North Carolina. In a study released in early October, the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation promoting a high-performing health system, dropped North Carolina's overall health ranking to 41st in the nation, down from 30th in 2007.

The BCBSNC survey asked North Carolinians about their spending on personal health care in the midst of today's down economy. With unemployment rising and health costs increasing as a result of such factors as an inefficient and fragmented health delivery system, unhealthy personal choices and a payment system that rewards quantity over quality, an increasing number of Americans are expressing frustration over health care. The BCBSNC survey captured behavior and spending changes among the 501 North Carolinians who participated.

Respondents without health insurance were considerably more likely to say they were delaying or doing without preventive health and other medical services.

Among the uninsured, who represented 12 percent of respondents, 47 percent were postponing health screenings and operations, compared with 13 percent of those with coverage. And 43 percent of the uninsured were not seeking regular physical exams, compared with 13 percent who have insurance.

"One of the most important takeaways from the survey is that preventive health should be given a high priority in health reform proposals," Bradley said. "Promoting health through prevention and healthy lifestyles is one of the best investments we can make in addressing costs and improving our system."

The BCBSNC survey, conducted by Durham-based market research firm W5 in April and May, was based on a randomly selected sample of North Carolinians. The margin of error for the total sample was plus or minus 4 percent.

About BCBSNC:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.7 million members, including approximately 900,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 76 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at http://www.bcbsnc.com .

Contact:
Kimberley Colvin or Kyle Marshall
BCBSNC Media Line: 919-765-3005
Online Newsroom: http://www.bcbsnc.com/inside/newsroom.cfm

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