On February 24, 2009, President Obama told the Congress, “The state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so….You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights….The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.”
The recession is impacting our citizens’ health. Health is defined by a wide range of factors, according to the Edelman Health Engagement Barometer. According to Edelman’s survey, the top four issues that impact health among Health Info-entials (the most information-seeking health citizens) are:
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Personal appearance
- Financial health.
Thus, fiscal health drives physical health.
On the purely money front, it’s interesting to note that Americans’ online search behavior demonstrates their fiscal angst. comScore’s latest data show that between December 2007 and 2008, there were big increases in searches using the terms, “unemployment,” “unemployment benefits,” “bankruptcy,” and “coupons.”
Americans are learning how to be better value-based health shoppers – whether they are conscious of this behavior or not. One of the few profitable companies operating today is Medco Health, the pharmacy benefits manager, which reported a bullish outlook today. Medco’s core business is mail-order pharmacy – generally moving generic drugs from distributors to consumers.
Adopting generics is one strategy that Americans have been using to manage out-of-pocket health costs. Finding coupons to help defray the cost of expensive branded drugs is another tactic that helps many patients.
But in this recession, some Americans are rationing care in the immediate term that may lead to longer-term poor health outcomes. One in four Americans says she had trouble paying for health care and health insurance as a result of the economic downturn.
Some of the self-rationing tactics that people are undertaking during this recession include putting off visits to physicians when people feel truly ill, skipping doses of drugs and not filling prescriptions, and skipping a recommended medical test or procedure.
Health citizens should take the long-view when making fiscal decisions about their health, and the health of those for whom they care. Health and wealth are intimately linked: without the former, the latter isn’t worth a dime.