When cost of living goes up, more people must choose among health care, heat, food, or other necessities.
As inflation continues to hit patients in the wallet, government policy makers and industry leaders should do more to help them manage their health care costs.
A consumer prices continue going up, an estimated 63% of physicians and nurses said they witnessed the effects on patient health in the six months preceding the September survey, according to “The Cost-of-Living Impact on Healthcare.” The report was published as part of the FirstWord Perspectives presented by physician recruiting consultant Medefield.
Rising costs of living mean less money to spend on health care and healthy habits, so there are negative effects on patient health, the report said.
“Rapidly rising costs of essentials such as food, heating and transport mean people need to work longer hours for less real spending power, particularly where wage rises cannot keep up with inflation,” the report said. “While the cost-of-living crisis is being felt across the board, poorer sections of society are faced with difficult choices, such as whether to buy nutritious food or turn on the heating to keep warm.”
The survey included responses from 274 primary care physicians, 937 specialists, 138 surgeons and 141 nurses across 10 countries: the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Every country in the survey posted climbing inflation rates as of September 2022. France was the lowest at 5.6%, followed by Canada (6.9%), Brazil (7.2%), the United States (8.3%), Mexico (8.7%), Italy (8.9%), and Spain (9%). Germany and the United Kingdom posted double-digit inflation rates of 10% and 10.1%, respectively, for that month.
As prices go up, an average of 57% of health care providers agreed the costs of living negatively impacted the diagnosis and treatment of their patients, the report said. The effects were most widely seen by physicians in Mexico (84%), Brazil (79%), the United States (66%), and Australia (61%).
“Many adults in the U.S. have difficulty paying for healthcare, particularly those with lower incomes and the uninsured,” the report said. “Insured patients are not immune to the cost-of-living crisis however, and many U.S. adults are worried about rising transport and medical costs, notably deductibles before their insurance kicks in.”
The effect was lower in the European nations, which averaged 47% of physicians reporting negative effects on diagnosis and treatment, particularly in Germany, where 33% of providers reported those.
“This is likely due to Europe having mainly public healthcare systems, which are either free at the point of care or have relatively low co-payments,” the report said. “Even so, in the UK, a significant proportion of people living with cancer are worried that they may be unable to attend hospital appointments due to rising travel costs.”
The report cited additional research by KFF and Maggie’s, a Scotland-based network of online resources and treatment centers for cancer, and other sources.