A new poll from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Knowledge Networks (KN) shows that many people with heart disease, diabetes or cancer believe the economic downturn is hurting their health and will have further negative impacts in the future. Many Americans with these illnesses face financial problems paying for medical bills in this economy. Most of these people do not believe the new national health care reform law (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010) will help them. This national poll is the first in a collaborative series of polls by HSPH and KN focused on people with heart disease, diabetes, or cancer; it was conducted October 27-31, 2010.

More than a third of those with heart disease (35%) or diabetes (39%) say that the economic downturn has had a negative impact on their health, while more than a fifth of those with cancer (21%) say the same. An even greater share of people with each disease say the economic downturn will hurt their health in the future (47% of those with heart disease; 48% of those with diabetes; and 27% of those with cancer).

"Many people with heart disease, diabetes or cancer say the problems created by the economic downturn are spilling over into their physical health, not only today but also in the future," said Gillian K. Steel Fisher, research scientist in the HSPH Department of Health Policy and Management and assistant director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program.

Roughly a third of those with heart disease (35%) or diabetes (34%), and a fifth of those with cancer (22%) say the economic downturn has forced them to use up most or all of their savings in order to deal with medical bills, co-payments and other fees related to their illness. Between a fifth and a quarter of these groups have gone into credit card debt (25% of those with heart disease; 26% of those with diabetes; and 19% of those with cancer). Smaller percentages declared bankruptcy because of the economic downturn`s impact on their ability to pay for medical care (4% of those with heart disease; 9% of those with diabetes; and 3% of those with cancer).

"While bankruptcy due to costs of health care has gotten national attention, it is also of serious concern that substantial proportions of people with these chronic conditions are depleting their savings and going into debt to pay for needed care," said Jordon Peugh, vice president of Health Care and Policy Research at Knowledge Networks.

Approximately 4 in 10 Americans with heart disease (43%) or diabetes (42%) and a fifth of those with cancer (21%) say the economic downturn has made it more stressful for them to manage their illness. As a result of the economic downturn, many of those with heart disease or diabetes also say they are cutting back on care from providers and regimens they follow at home to help manage their illness. For example, roughly a fifth of those with diabetes (19%) say they have skipped or delayed appointments with their doctor or nurse, and 15% say they have skipped or delayed recommended diagnostics or lab tests. At home, 18% of those with diabetes have not been able to follow the diet their provider recommended, and 23% say they are testing their blood sugar less often than they are supposed to. People with heart disease are cutting back to a similar degree, while those with cancer are less likely to be cutting back as a result of the economic downturn.

Less than 15% of people with heart disease, diabetes or cancer believe they will be better off under the new national health care reform law (14% of those with heart disease; 14% of those with diabetes and 11% of those with cancer). By comparison, approximately 4 in 10 believe they will be worse off under the new law (41% of those with heart disease; 38% of those with diabetes and 43% of those with cancer), and the remainder believe the law won`t make much difference (34% of those with heart disease; 29% of those with diabetes; 38% of those with cancer) or don`t know what the law`s impact will be for them (11% of those with heart disease; 19% of those with diabetes; 8% of those with cancer).

"Although experts suggest the health care reform law has provisions that could help people with illnesses like heart disease, diabetes or cancer, many people who have such diseases do not believe it," said Professor Robert J. Blendon, director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program.

 

Source: Harvard School of Public Health Press Release

Article originally posted by DiabetesCare.net on December 1, 2010.