| September 17, 2012

Americans Skip Medical Care to Avoid Costs

Many households that are struggling due to higher costs for daily needs typically start paring back spending on discretionary items. In some cases, however, lowering utilities bills and canceling cable packages may not be sufficient to provide the type of savings they need. Instead, some are forced to cut out bigger costs, and a recent study reveals that one of these expenses includes healthcare.

Medical bills can be more costly and burdensome than credit card debt, and to avoid these types of balances, many Americans are avoiding trips to the doctor or failing to fill their prescriptions. The Consumer Reports annual prescription drug poll reveals 45 percent of individuals under age 65 did not fill prescriptions this year due to costs, compared to 27 percent last year.

The number of Americans who admitted to declining a medical test due to their personal finances increased 29 percentage points from last year to 62 percent, while 63 percent put off doctors’ visits to avoid the costs, up 19 percentage points. Another 51 percent said they skipped out on a medical procedure.

While skipping out on medical procedures and not filling prescriptions may save families money in the short-term, the long-term effects could be financially ruinous to households as their health declines. Failing to address medical problems in their early stages can cause them to worsen until they get to a point where significant and costly medical help becomes necessary.

“Americans are in serious financial distress and now, more than ever, they need to be thinking about their health,” said John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. “With everything we know about the relationship between stress and health, it is very worrisome to think that people aren’t getting the care they need.”

Consumers who are concerned with cost should not be shy about disclosing their financial condition with doctors and pharmacists, both of whom may find more affordable options for individuals. In addition, prices for medical procedures vary by hospital, and contacting facilities to compare the these costs can lead to significant savings for cash-strapped individuals. Lastly, many providers offer installment repayment programs that can help families get the service they need and manage monthly payments.

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