More Uninsured Americans Not Filling Prescriptions, Delaying Doctor's Visits, Skipping Medical Procedures

While the U.S. economy is arguably inching toward improvement, costs for health insurance continue to climb. Combined with still-high unemployment and a growing number of employers requiring employees to pay a larger share of their insurance premiums, and there are a lot of uninsured and under-insured Americans out there. And according to the Consumer Reports annual prescription drug poll, a growing number of these people are going without needed care or medication.

Talking to Americans under the age of 65 without an insurance plan that covers prescription drugs, Consumer Reports found the following:

* 62% declined a medical test because of cost (an increase of 29% from 2011)
* 45% skipped filling a prescription because of cost (an increase of 19%)
* 63% put off a doctor’s visit to save money (an increase of 16%)
* 51% skipped a medical procedure due to cost (an increase of 12%)

81% of these people said they had done at least one of the above during the last year.

This news comes at a time when nearly half of adult Americans (46%) are taking some sort of prescription medication, with the average being 4.1 medications. Lest you think that the large, aging Baby Boomer population is skewing this data, the CR survey found that 25% of Americans ages 18 to 39, take at least two prescription medicines.

“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.

In addition to foregoing medical care, the CR survey found that many consumers are not confiding in the professionals who could actually help them cut their health care costs.

68% of respondents said they are uncomfortable discussing personal financial difficulties with their pharmacist, while 47% voiced a similar reluctance in discussing money problems with their physician.

“This is a very serious red flag,” says Santa. “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.”