When Crossing Boundaries Helps Patients Stay Healthy

The changes in insurance coverage associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are forcing some physicians into tough spots when it comes to things like food and medicine, the availability of which can determine whether a patient will face an unnecessary admission or readmission to a hospital, according to a blog post on The New York Times website.

The author, a physician, blogs about seemingly insignificant costs — $50 for a week of food or a life-saving generic antibiotic — that are often insurmountable for those who stand to benefit most from being able to afford them. The result of cuts to programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps are "penny-wise-pound-foolish," she states.

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"From an economic point-of-view, it is simply insanity. A single hospital admission surpasses $10,000 before the patient so much as hiccups. A week of food to make it to the end of the month? Probably less than the IV tubing and dextrose solution," she writes.

The same issue has been cropping up frequently in the last year, with a September 2013 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association detailing a physician's decision to give a patient $30 to cover the cost of a necessary medication she would otherwise be unable to purchase. The physician was subsequently cited for unprofessional behavior.

A May 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data shows 49 percent of adults with chronic conditions forgo needed medical care due to cost, reporting unmet needs for medical care nearly five times as often as their insured counterparts, according to a news release.

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