Physician offices are seeing declining revenues as patients, worried about their own financial health amid the economic downturn, put off appointments or fall behind on medical bills.
While some patients are kept away from doctors' offices because they lack health insurance, others have coverage but face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs from co-payments and high deductibles.
That both those with and without health insurance are foregoing needed health care is indicative of the basic problems in the US healthcare system, a system which is increasingly making it difficult for anyone regardless of insurance coverage to get needed care.
Revenue at physician offices in 12 Midwest states, including Indiana, fell almost 9 percent this year compared with last year, according to data from Sageworks, a North Carolina company that tracks sales of U.S. privately held companies.
"What may be different in this downturn compared with previous ones is the fact that health care has become so much more expensive," said Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow with the Center for Studying Health System Change, a Washington-based research group. "Families have very little cushion in their budgets for health-care expenses."
According to a recent study by the group, one in three families reported problems paying medical bills when their out-of-pocket health spending totaled just 2.5 percent to 5 percent of family income.
Working families in the United States are unable to meet their health care needs. The best solution for this is to restructure the health care industry to be similar to those of all other industrialized countries, and create a single payer system that gets rid of the bloated costs for insurance administration that eat up 1/3 of our health care dollars without providing any services.
About 45.7 million Americans, including 717,000 in Indiana, are uninsured. But that number could rise as the economic downturn continues.
When the richest country in the world can't provide health care to its citizens, fundamental change is clearly required.