WEST ST PAUL, Minn. — By now, nearly every American has been affected in some way by the record-high inflation rates we've experienced over the past couple of years. A new Gallup poll gives an idea of just how much soaring costs are impacting who shows up at the doctor's office and who doesn't.
The poll reports 38% surveyed say they or someone in their family put off medical treatment in 2022, up 12 percentage points from 2021. It's the highest number in Gallup's 22-year trend. Notably, 27% say the medical treatment they delayed was for a "very" or "somewhat serious" condition.
In addition to the obvious health consequences of postponing care, Dr. Alex Vosooney, president of the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, says it can drive up the cost further.
"If a condition progresses where now it becomes more serious or urgent issue, that can mean that we’re looking at an emergency room visit which can be costly," she said. "It could mean a higher level of care, like a surgery or intensive antibiotics or a longer course of therapy. And that can just bring up the cost for a patient."
Dr. Vosooney, who practices at the Allina Health West St. Paul Clinic, says patients have been concerned about cost for as long as she's been in practice.
"I certainly have some patients, particularly who have high deductible plans, who’ve tried to stagger out some of their visits or who have mentioned they’ve paid off a bill or they’re waiting to pay off a bill before they can come back and see me," Dr. Vosooney said.
She encourages patients to use their primary care physician and pharmacist as their allies, and discuss ways to prioritize your health while also cutting costs.
"You can always just say, are there other options for how I’m getting care right now? Are there other medications? Clinicians will be happy to talk about those options with you and say what else can we do to partner to make a better health plan for you," she said.
She encourages people to utilize sites like GoodRx and Cost Plus Drugs for medication price comparisons and Turquoise Health for to look into the price of health and tests services like medical imaging.
Also, for non-urgent issues, she recommends telehealth appointments.
"[Telehealth visits] can be a nice option for certain types of medical conditions so patients don’t have to take several hours off work and come and wait in my office," Dr. Vosooney said. "They can simply see me online for the 10 or 15 minutes it takes and then go back to their job without a lot of interruption."