The recent economic recession is the longest since World War II. With record joblessness, personal health care spending, particularly for preventative health services, has dropped dramatically.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that Americans received fewer colon cancer screenings during the last economic recession.

The research team found that between December 2007 to June 2009, about one-half million fewer Americans covered by commercial health insurance, underwent colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer than expected, based on the previous two years.

Results from the study also found that high out-of-pocket patient costs were directly linked to patients not getting the screenings their physicians suggest.

“We found that patients facing high out-of-pocket costs were less likely to undergo colonoscopy at any time point, especially during the recession, explained Spencer Dorn assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina.

“Before the recession, these individuals were less likely to get a screening coloncopy, but the gap in use between those with high and low out-of-pocket costs was narrowing. But when the recession hit full force, the discrepancy in use widened again,” he said.

Though colonoscopies were down for those with commercial health insurance, Doctound those covered by government sponsored health insurance – Medicare and Medicaid – were still getting the recommended care.

“These findings reflect the intimate link between socioeconomic factors and health care use,” the authors wrote. They also state that people “may be unable to afford screening colonoscopy, or may perceive it to be less important than competing demands for limited resources.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that colon cancer screening is significantly lower than the projected amounts for men and women.

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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