How a Drop in Income Can Affect Your Patients – and How You Can Help

It’s been one week since the $600 per week expanded unemployment benefit expired in the U.S., and that could spell trouble for your patients. Currently, unemployment in the nation is hovering around 10%. However, there are many people who are working only part-time or have had their hours cut.

Congress is in the process of negotiating a possible extension to the benefits, but the new aide package could still leave millions of Americans strapped for cash. The enhanced unemployment benefits have helped so many families keep poverty at bay. Much of that money has gone to essentials, such as housing, food, and medicine.

Without this money, many of your patients will likely cut back on their expenses, including medical care. Before the pandemic, nearly half of Americans (44%) went without medical care because of cost. The end of the enhanced employment benefits will only make things worse.

Learn how to help your patients – even when they don’t have enough money to go to the doctor.

Americans Fall on Hard Times

It’s been a rough year for the U.S. economy. Gross domestic product dropped by 32.9% during the last quarter, the biggest drop on record. Around a quarter of Americans say they have lost a job as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Those making under $30,000 a year reported the most losses, with 34% saying they have been laid off. The biggest losses have been in the hospitality, entertainment, and retail industries.

Even as some parts of the economy show signs of life, there are currently 21 million Americans out of work with around 30 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits. Millions of individuals and families will have to make some tough choices now that their income is about to drop by around $2,400 a month. With state benefits tapping out anywhere from $100 to $300 a week, many people will have to live off just $500 to $1,200 a month.

Worse yet, many people still haven’t received their unemployment benefits. Among those who have applied, more than a third say they are still waiting to receive their money. State unemployment systems have been racked with long delays and unexpected shutdowns.  

What Happens When Money is Tight

The job recruiting website ZipRecruiter recently released a report on how these cutbacks would likely affect the average American. Individuals were asked what they would do if their benefits were cut by just $400 a week, instead of $600.

  • Around 3 in 4 said they would have to cut back on essentials such as food and groceries.
  • 41% said they wouldn’t be able to pay their rent.
  • 38% said they would likely miss a car payment.
  • Around 1 in 5 said they would have to move.

According to a survey from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, before the pandemic, around 30% of Americans already had to choose between medical care and essentials like housing, food, and heating.

Falling behind on medical care can lead to anxiety, including fears of extreme illness, mounting unpaid bills, and the cost of future medical care.

When money is tight, around a third of people will either not fill their prescriptions or take less than the recommended amount.

Tips for Your Patients

Encourage your patients to keep their health insurance by any means necessary. Not having health insurance can lead to significant financial problems down the line. Government-run programs such Medicaid and COBRA can help your patients find coverage when money is tight.

More than 50% of Americans have already suffered serious financial consequences because of healthcare costs. When faced with high medical bills, many of those surveyed reported using all or most of their savings (36%), borrowing money or increasing debt (32%), or decreasing savings plan contributions (41%). Having insurance today will help them avoid financial ruin tomorrow.

If some of your patients have recently lost their jobs, help them find low-cost or free healthcare centers in your community. Head to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to find a location in your area.

For those who say they plan to forgo medical care due to cost, talk to these individuals about how they can better manage their health on their own. Talk to them about the risks of cutting back on their medication. Help them be aware of certain symptoms and warning signs of needing urgent care. Talk to them about using thermometers, blood pressure monitors, scales, and other common medical equipment at home, so they can continue to manage their condition.

Clearly, many Americans need more money in the bank if we want them to see the doctor. Hopefully, more relief is on the way, but until then, help your patients make the most of their current situation.

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