Everywhere we turn the economy is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. People are having trouble paying for higher education, they are having their homes foreclosed on and healthy food is just beyond the reach of many families and other low-income people. In a time when many people are unable to maintain proper health they are also unable to access health care.

According to a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) this issue is no myth.

AAFP found that people in 2009 had been filling prescription medicines at a lower rate. Over half the physicians said they were seeing fewer patients since ’08. More than half the physicians also said that they are seeing issues that could be avoided with preventive care, but fewer patients are seeking it.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare is intended to fix the health care situation. But the remedy hasn’t proven itself yet because we haven’t had a chance to fully see Obamacare in action, and we won’t until 2014. In the mean time people’s access to treatment and clinic visits is becoming a larger and larger issue.

Color Lines reported in 2009 that the rate of uninsured people has spiked to 20 percent. Using U.S. census numbers that is over 62 million people who are uninsured in the U.S.. At the same time the percentage of people being insured by Medicade and Medicare has increased dramatically.

The Color Lines article said “As we’ve reported before, the exchanges might deepen racial and gender imbalances in health-care access”. Other groups effected disproportionately are undocumented workers, who won’t have access to federally funded programs because of citizenship restrictions to federal aid.

Rural areas are also being hit especially hard. According to healthreform.org, rural areas are being affected disproportionately because of the seasonal farm work in those areas. Many rural workers aren’t offered insurance because they only work a few months at one job, then a few months at another, as the seasons change.

Not having health insurance isn’t the only way people are being affected by the changing state of healthcare.

The Daily Finance, a website run by AOL, recently ran an article saying that employers are paying more for their staff’s family health insurance. An increase between 2003 and 2010 has created an environment where employers are less likely to give their workers raises because of the increased cost of insurance.

At UMass Amherst students are feeling the ripples of the changing healthcare economy. University Health Services (UHS) is cutting hours, closing their pharmacy, and introducing a co-insurance system. Steffi Porter discusses these changes in an article for the Daily Collegian.

Emily Mortimer, a UMass senior in the Women, Gender and Sexuality program shared her sentiments saying, “It is unfortunate that while UMass is willing to invest millions in improving the physical structure of UMass, via new dorms, new academic buildings, a new football stadium, they care so little about the physical health of their student body”

The University says that they are making hard economic decisions in a time where a belt is continually being tightened around the budget. At the same time UHS has $5 million in deferred maintenance to its main facility building. The director of UHS, Bernette A. Daly, sent a Letter to the Editor of the Daily Collegian, which discusses some of these hard decisions being made. The University says an economic shift is necessary. For students this shift is going to be a costly one. For UHS staff this is costing them jobs.

The Atlantic recently published an article about the effects of changing the focus of healthcare. CareMore is a California company providing healthcare across the Southwestern United States. They treat more than 50,000 Medicare Advantage patients. Their approach to cutting costs is innovative and unique in the current healthcare economy.

CareMore focuses its care on preventative medicine. They offer free transportation to appointments, provide pill boxes that have alarms to remind patients to take their meds, and send health professionals to patient’s houses to check for hazardous living conditions; items such as hazardous throw rugs are identified and replaced.

All this seems like a costly endeavor, but the reality is that these small steps are working. They keep people healthy while preventing costly treatments like surgery, hospital visits and nursing home stays.

The actual amount of savings by CareMore is significant. In their first four years of operation using more common healthcare models, they had a deficit of $11 million. In 2000, after switching to this more innovative model of medicine, CareMore made a $24 million profit.

The changes to UHS will begin Fall of 2012.

This article and video were created in partnership with Micheal Stewart and Tim Jones.

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