With unemployment rates still at 9.6 percent, one in five Americans choose not to seek medical care for recent illness or injury.

According to a Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey of more than 4,000 adults in the United States, four out of 10 people cited cost as the primary factor for not getting care for their health issue. Another 24 percent of consumers remain confident about managing future health care costs, indicating that a different portion of the population is more secure in their cost management.

Deloitte’s survey also showed a decline in the number of consumers who visited a physician or health care professional in the past year; 79 percent of respondents sought medical attention in 2010, compared with 85 percent who did the same in 2009.

Seeking other options

When traditional care becomes too cost-prohibitive, consumers are exploring a variety of alternative options.

  • Fifteen percent of consumers reported visiting a retail clinic and 34 percent said they would do so if it cost 50 percent or less than the cost of a doctor’s appointment.
  • More consumers are seeking alternative or natural remedies before seeing a physician (17 percent chose this option in 2010, compared with 12 percent in 2009).
  • More consumers are supplementing their current regimes with alternative remedies (20 percent have pursued this route in 2010, compared with 16 percent in 2009).
  • Consumers are also receptive to medical tourism, but only 7 percent sought health care services outside their local community in the last 12 months.

In recent quarterly earnings reports, some health care organizations have reported a decline in the use of health care services. Reasons include fewer admissions at certain hospitals, fewer doctor’s visits, less prescription volume, and, in some cases, a fewer medical tests ordered.

What can you do?

Is there anything you can do to help clients who may have be struggling with their medical bills? Here are some tips in case a client approaches you looking for help:

Remember, pointing a client in the direction of free help may not get you a commission now, but it might bring you referrals or help down the road when the client gets back on their feet. remembers how helpful you were.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at 800-933-9449 ext. 225 or HTrese@AgentMedia.com.