CHICAGO (AP) -- The ailing economy is leading many Americans to skip doctor visits, skimp on their medicine, and put off mammograms, Pap smears and other tests. And physicians worry the result will be sicker patients who need more expensive treatment later.
"I have to pretty much be very ill to go to the doctor," said Julie Shelley, a 49-year-old office manager and mother of three from West Milton, Ohio. "I'm probably at the age where I should have a checkup or physical. I'm not going to do it. I am last on the list."
In Lombard, Ill., Donald Hendricks lost his job over the summer at an event-planning company. When two of his six children came down with a fever and sore throat several weeks ago, he could not afford the gas money to drive them to the doctor. He gave them soup and soda instead, and they got better.
"I never felt the crunch like this before," Hendricks said.
In Indianapolis, Raechelle Miles lost her job at an auto parts plant in July, and lost nearly everything else in a tornado. Now her dental fillings are falling out, and she is putting off a visit to the dentist, even though she realizes that may lead to more expensive treatment later on.
"The health care system was not in a good state really any time in the last five to 10 years. This has simply stressed it to a very severe degree," said Dr. Eric Schackow, a family physician in Chicago. "It does become very disheartening and discouraging because we find ourselves with our fingers in the dike."