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Ailing Economy Forces More Families to Choose Between Medicine and Food

October 23, 2008

Phoenix AZ - Most Americans are not receiving the medical care and attention they need, according to a new study that indicates one-third have had trouble paying their medical bills in the past year. The result, says the Kaiser Family Foundation, is that many families are avoiding healthcare altogether.

The study finds that roughly half of families in the U.S. are now skimping on doctor visits and prescription purchases. While the problem was once restricted to the nation's poorer families, the plunging economy has extended the trend into the middle class.

Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, says families are being forced to prioritize, and their health is taking a back seat to other necessities.

"What's happening today is, because of rising costs of food and utility expenses, and reductions in hours at work, families are making those decisions every single day."

In Zwick's opinion, a universal healthcare system could help meet these needs so families aren't deprived of medical treatment during hard economic times. She also believes funding for such a system is possible, considering what the country is already spending on medical care.

"Employer contributions, individual contributions, government contributions - I think it's all part of the mix."

The study indicates 47 percent of families will skip some form of healthcare, simply because they are unable to afford it - a figure that is up from 42 percent just six months ago. The study can be viewed online at www.kff.org.

Doug Ramsey/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - AZ