Physician office visits have been tracking downward for months. Total patient visits to physician offices were down 7.3% in July from the July 2009—the fourth consecutive month to post negative growth in physician visits, according to researchers with the North American offices of Deutsche Bank Securities.
In the short term this trend may help the healthcare system, which is preparing to comply with healthcare reform legislation and bracing to meet the coming demands of the newly insured as they come online under health care reform legislation. A lighter patient load may give physicians time to implement EHR systems, for example.
In the long term, though, employer-sponsored health plans could be pricing so many out of the market, that the net result will look essentially like what we have today—millions of people unable to afford doctor visits when they are sick. Workers and their employers will be paying health plan premiums. But those workers on employer-sponsored plans, faced with higher out-of-pocket costs, will be no closer to receiving healthcare than they are today.