The Morning File: An apple a day ... Actually, we keep ourselves away
This bulletin just out from the U.S. Census Bureau: We don't like going to the doctor.
Actually, I guess we knew that all along. The new news is that we avoid medical visits even more now than before -- whether it be out of fear, stoicism, lack of insurance, outstanding health, avoidance of outdated magazines or familiarity with frequent court stories about how our practitioner is going to grope us when we're unable to pay close attention.
The key finding is working-age adults made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses or other medical providers in 2010, which is down significantly from an average of 4.8 such trips in 2001. That meshes perfectly with the experiences of the author of The Morning File, as in 2010 he didn't have to repeat his 2001 trip to the emergency room to have his daughters' 'N Sync music removed from his eardrums.
The Census Bureau's report, "Health Status, Health Insurance and Medical Services Utilization: 2010" -- which we're sorry to say is not available at bookstores since they don't exist anymore -- says that two out of three Americans consider their health to be excellent or very good.
Only 2 percent describe their health as poor, which must be the members of the Pirates and other baseball players we keep reading about who take games off for pulls and tears and strains and obliques and everything else under the sun.
Geez, you'd think they were playing a tough game like football or something.
It didn't really matter whether your health was excellent, good, fair or poor though, when it came to reduced medical visits. Those were down across the board, and trips to the dentist were no exception.
You know how some people (dentists, mostly, we're guessing) say you're supposed to go to the dentist every six months? Only 59 percent of adult Americans had made at least one dental visit in the past year.
This avoidance by a substantial minority makes a certain amount of sense. Dentists seem a lot like auto mechanics in their ability to identify stuff you didn't even know was wrong because you can't see it, it wasn't bothering you and you're confident you could have gone on forever with it as it was -- except that now that it's been called to your attention, you figure you'd better get it done, whatever it costs.
Thirty-five percent of those deeming themselves in excellent health had visited the dentist twice during the past year, which was the case with only 12 percent of those in poor health.
The good news is how few of us had to spend a night in the hospital, which presumably is good news for hospitals, too, as we're always hearing about how they're kicking people out of their beds before they're ready to go -- probably so the beds are available for the doctors and nurses to have sex together, like on TV shows (though linen supply closets also seem a favorite location for network broadcast trysts). Only 8 percent of adults spent a night in a hospital room during the recent 12-month period.
If you're using a prescription medication regularly, you're in the minority -- though you wouldn't know it from the ubiquitous commercials for them. Just 35 percent of the population reported taking prescription drugs regularly, and 57 percent of adults hadn't used any for the prior year.
This latter group of selfishly healthy people must be the ones responsible for making drugs so expensive for those who need to use them; if everyone would just take a prescription drug, the manufacturers could reduce the cost, right? Back in the dark ages, HDTVs were expensive, and then once everyone had one, they weren't anymore. You don't have to win a Nobel prize in economics to figure these things out. It's a bit surprising, in fact, that Obamacare doesn't include a provision to require everyone to use a prescription drug.
Oddly, we've heard very little hand-wringing from the medical community about this purported drop in people visiting them. You'd think there'd be a lot of boarded-up doctors' offices in Oakland, a good number of medical professionals showing up for free canned goods at food banks and dentists offering two-for-one coupons on cavity filling in the Entertainment Book.
But no, they seem to keep driving their BMWs and paying their offsprings' tuition costs so they can grow up to become doctors just like them, no matter how little we patronize them. The big question for us is, if reducing our willingness to visit isn't enough to make them improve the quality of their magazines, what's it going to take?
First Published October 8, 2012 12:00 am