Consumer Reports Poll: Strapped Americans Foregoing Prescription Meds, Skipping Doctor Visits, Putting off Medical Procedures

Consumer Reports’ annual prescription drug poll finds that many American consumers rely on multiple prescription drugs and are so strapped for cash that they can’t afford to pay for them. They are also foregoing routine doctors’ appointments and declining medical tests and procedures

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Yonkers, NY (PRWEB) September 13, 2012

Consumer Reports’ annual prescription drug poll finds that many American consumers rely on multiple prescription drugs and are so strapped for cash that they can’t afford to pay for them. They are also foregoing routine doctors’ appointments and declining medical tests and procedures. Since last year, individuals under the age of 65 without a prescription drug benefit have been especially hard hit, with nearly half (45 percent) of them not filling their prescriptions because of cost, versus 27 percent last year, an increase of 19 percentage points.
    “Americans are in serious financial distress and now, more than ever, they need to be thinking about their health. 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,” said John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.
Poor Doctor-Patient Communication
    The poll was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center using a telephone survey of a total of 1,158 interviews with adults 18 years of age and older (see complete methodology on page 2). According to the poll, in addition to foregoing medical care, consumers are reluctant to confide in the professionals who are in the best position to help cut costs. High numbers of all survey respondents reported being uncomfortable discussing personal financial difficulties with their pharmacist (68 percent) or their physician (47 percent). “This is a very serious red flag. Patients need to speak up, but doctors have a role too. An important part of a physician’s professional obligations includes assistance navigating stressful financial times—especially when part of the stress is related to the health care a physician orders or provides. For most physicians, their goal is to care for the whole patient not just the portion carrying the wallet,” said Santa.
Nearly Half Taking 4 Prescriptions; 14 Percent Taking 7 or More
    Nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. adults currently take prescription drugs and among them the average number of prescriptions taken is 4.1. Surprisingly, one quarter (25 percent) of those ages 18-39 regularly takes two prescription medicines, suggesting that reliance on multiple prescription drugs is no longer confined to older Americans.    

    The economy’s negative effects have been most profoundly felt by those under the age of 65 without insurance for medications, and their fate has worsened since last year. A tremendous number—81 percent—said that over the last year they had done one of the following:

  •     Sixty-two percent declined a medical test because of cost (an increase of 29 percentage points since 2011)
  •     Forty-five percent skipped filling a prescription because of cost (an increase of 19 percentage points since last year)
  •     Sixty-three percent put off a doctor’s visit to save money (an increase of 16 percentage points since last year)
  •     Fifty-one percent skipped a medical procedure due to cost (an increase of 12 percentage points since last year)
Cutting Back On Entertainment; Relying on Credit
The poll also found consumers cutting back on everything from entertainment to groceries so they could pay for much-needed prescription medications:
o    Twenty-eight percent of adults under age 65 with a prescription drug benefit and 58 percent of those without spent less on entertainment and dining.
o    Twenty-one percent of adults under 65 with drug coverage and 46 percent of those without spent less on groceries.
o    Fourteen percent of adults under 65 with a drug benefit said they used their credit cards more while 22 percent of those without did so.
Strategies for Cost-Cutting
“When it comes to prescription drugs, consumers are spending on average $63 out of pocket every month, which can easily swallow up a big portion of the family budget. It’s even worse for those without insurance for medicines, who pay upwards of $91 a month for their prescriptions. We recommend several cost-cutting strategies, such as the $4 a month generic programs at the big-box and chain pharmacies, and if you aren’t already taking a generic, talk to your doctor about switching,” said Lisa Gill, editor, prescription drugs, Consumer Reports.
Other strategies for reducing costs include the use of generic drugs instead of prescription drugs, pill- splitting when appropriate, and even substituting over-the-counter drugs for prescription drugs. More cost-cutting tips are available online at http://www.ConsumerReports.org. Visit Consumer Reports’ extensive reports on Best Drugs for more than 20 common conditions at http://www.ConsumerReports.org.

Survey Methodology
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey using a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. A total of 1,158 interviews were completed among adults 18+ who currently take a prescription drug. Interviewing took place May 24-June 3, 2012.    The sampling error is +/-2.9 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.
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SEPTEMBER 2012

© 2012 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.


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