Another Recession Indicator: NBC Blames Drop in Medical Services on Economy

NBC found yet another indicator of the troubled economy on Dec. 29.

“Nightly News” detected a drop in certain medical services and blamed it on economic hardship – citing examples from Pennsylvania, Kansas and Illinois where people have foregone medical care or prescriptions because they could no longer afford to pay for it – all because of the economy of course.

“We are hearing so much on the fallout from the economic meltdown – now the latest indicator on how tough times really are,” Lester Holt said. “New evidence that Americans are taking chances with their health and even their lives because they’re financially strapped.”

NBC correspondent Jeff Rossen’s report began with John Murphy, a diabetic from Hershey, Pa., who stopped taking his insulin medication as a result of the recession.

“I have to choose either to put food on the table and clothing on my kid’s back or take my medication,” Murphy said to “Nightly News.”

However, that caused Murphy to have to make an emergency room visit – an epidemic that is the result of the financial crisis according to Rossen.

“For the first time in more than a decade, surveys show Americans are filling fewer prescriptions, unable to afford them,” Rossen said. “Eleven percent say they’re cutting back or splitting pills.”

It isn’t just prescriptions, according to Rossen, but scheduled doctor’s visits that are falling off too.

“This sudden drop in prescriptions isn’t the only problem,” Rossen said. “Now people are skipping their doctor’s appointments altogether. According to a new study, 36 percent of Americans have put off needed care and that may cost all of us in the end.”

And this will cost Americans more according to one expert interviewed by NBC. He made the case that if Americans seek medical treatment early on, it is more cost efficient for everyone. He noted that people dropping prescriptions and visits will be a burden.

“It’ll tend to raise the cost of health care just simply because they wait ’til they become extremely ill so their care becomes more expensive,” Dr. James King of the American Academy of Family Physicians said to “Nightly News.”

Rossen also noted the spike in emergency room visits in U.S. hospitals, but didn’t cite financial experts who don’t correlate economic hardship with a falloff in medical services. In fact, health care stocks are traditionally thought to be defensive plays during an economic downturn as a Nov. 1 Associated Press pointed out.

“With an aging population and the largest health care spending in the world, the nation’s medical sector could fare perhaps best of all,” AP said. “During economic downturns, sales of prescription drugs and medical devices tend to hold up better than nonessential goods, noted David Wyss, chief economist of Standard and Poor’s.” 

“Generally, you're looking for things that are necessities, not luxuries,” Wyss said to AP. “People get sick and need medical care regardless of the state of the economy.”