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Recession Taking a Bite Out of Americans' Health Care

Family physicians discounting fees, offering more free screenings to needy patients

WEDNESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Family physicians are seeing evidence of the recession's impact on access to health care for Americans, and are offering more charity care, lower fees and free screenings to a growing number of needy patients, according to a survey published on May 19 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

In a national poll of Academy members, signs of the negative impact of the recession on health care included an increase in appointment cancellations, reported by 58 percent of respondents, and patients expressing concerns over their ability to pay for health care, reported by almost 90 percent of those surveyed.

Other signs of the recession's impact were an increase in patients' stress symptoms, reported by 87 percent of doctors surveyed, and an increase in the number of uninsured patients, noted by 73 percent of respondents. The majority of doctors surveyed (66 percent) were acting to help ease the burden by changing patients to generic prescriptions and providing discounted or free services.

"The American Academy of Family Physicians supports health care coverage for all Americans regardless of their employment status or socioeconomic status," said Ted Epperly, M.D., the president of the academy, in a statement. "To achieve that goal and provide better care for all Americans in a cost-efficient manner, we must move toward a health care system based on enhanced primary care."

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