Job Loss Fears Send Patients to the Doctor

Doctors in North Texas say they more and more patients are rushing in to see them before their insurance benefits run out.

Doctors say patients are using their insurance benefits more than ever, fearing they may lose their jobs during a layoff. While physicians are used to seeing an end-of-the-year influx of patients using flex-spending dollars, the rush didn't stop with the new year, they say.

Doctors at Frisco Primary Care said they are doing 90 percent more physical exams this year compared to the same time last year. Dr. Suba Narayanan, an internal medicine doctor, said the economy has affected the practice in a major way.

"We are also seeing more patients self-pay," Narayanan said.

When people pay the full amount for their care, it limits how much they want -- or can afford -- to spend.

"It's also affects our decicion-making, because sometimes we recommend tests that they can't afford at that time," Nayananan said.

Dentists and oral surgeons said they are experiencing the same thing.

"Even patients who have lost their jobs who have COBRA are rushing to use it before it all goes away, because nobody really knows what's going to happen, " said Dr. Sharon Orenstein, an oral surgeon.

She said patients are also opting for the bare minimum of care.

"Sometimes they'll need a bundled procedure, but they can only afford to do what really hurts, so they are putting off all the extra stuff for another time," Orenstein said.

"Medical school never prepares you for this, but it's reality," Narayanan said.

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