Area bucks trend of fewer health visits

A local optometrist said his practice suggests that rural Kansans are not following the national trend of limiting their doctor visits because of the recession.

A survey released this month by the American Optometric Association revealed that 36 percent of Americans say they are cutting back in that area.

Optometrist Paul Unruh, who has an office in Hillsboro and Hesston, said he hasn?t noticed a reduction in client visits.

?I believe the biggest reason is that most of our patient visits are covered by insurance?particularly Medicare, since we have an aging population in Hillsboro,? Unruh said. ?I think this would probably be true of most rural Kansas towns.

?If there is a trend,? he added, ?it is that more of my patients are now on Medicaid than traditional insurance coverage.?

The AOA survey indicated that of the respondents who said they were limiting doctor visits, 52 percent identified the eye doctor as a health professional they were visiting less often.

?These statistics are very worrisome,? said Wes Garton, president of the Kansas Optomet?ric Association. ?We know that many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, so early diagnosis and treatment are critical.

?This is true beyond just eye care,? he added. ?Health issues of any kind are not things people should ignore.?

The AOA survey indicated that even more people are choosing to reduce visits to their dentist (63 percent) and primary care physician (59 percent).

Fear of losing eyesight may be one reason eye doctors fared better, according to the AOA.

For the fourth year in a row, the AOA?s American Eye-Q survey showed that consumers worry most about losing their vision (43 percent), over their memory (32 percent) or even their ability to walk (12 percent).

?The concept of losing vision appears very concrete to people, which may be why people cut back on other doctor visits first,? Garton said.

?But doctors of optometry encourage individuals to consider eye and vision care as an integral part of their overall health, so cutting back on any aspect of health care is not a good idea.?

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