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Many Americans cannot afford prescription refills reports new study

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
prescription costs, Consumer Reports, health insurance, economy

According to a new survey conducted by Consumer Reports, an increasing number of Americans are not filling prescriptions for their medications because they cannot afford them. The report notes that 45% of individuals under age 65 who do not have health insurance coverage for prescriptions reported that they had not filled a prescription in the last year because of the cost. In 2011, 27% of this group said the same.

Another sad finding of the report was that 84% of working-age people in the US without health insurance coverage for prescriptions said they had taken some action, such as spending less on groceries or postponing paying other bills, in order to pay for their medications; this number marked an increase from 71% last year. Consumer Reports notes that approximately 15% of individuals in the US do not have insurance coverage for their prescription medication.

Another aim of the Consumer Report Survey was to determine the biggest source of financial problems for consumers that impact their general purchasing power. The survey results revealed that 50% of individuals without prescription drug coverage, and 15% of those with drug coverage reported that in the past six months they have been unable to afford their medical bills. Smaller percentages said they were unable to afford gas for their car (32% with coverage and 15% without coverage) or that they had missed a mortgage payment (8% with coverage and 2% without).

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The researchers also found that an increasing number of individuals were taking “potentially dangerous” measures to save money on their healthcare. Among those without prescription drug coverage, 63% said they postponed a doctor’s visit; 48% said the same last year. Moreover, 62% said that they had refused a medical test because of the cost, compared with 33% last year. Some respondents reported cutting pills in half and skipping doses to stretch their medications.

The telephone survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of households with telephones. The researchers conducted interviews with 1,158 adults who currently take prescription drugs. This is the fourth year that Consumer Reports has conducted the survey.

Take home message:
Prescription medications are expensive. However, the savvy consumer can save money on their drugs. Ask the pharmacist if there is a generic drug that is equivalent to the brand-name drug. Approximately 75% of brand-name drugs have a generic version. Also take advantage of prescription drug discount plans that many stores now offer. Currently, Kmart, Target, Walmart and many others offer discount programs. The plans vary; some require a fee to join, and each has its own list of drugs that are available for a discount. For individuals who need to take a brand-name product that is not available for a discount, some pharmaceutical companies offer programs that may provide some financial help. They offer 30-day free trials or a small discount on the price for a limited time. If you live near the Mexican border, many drugs can be purchased for far less. Countering, the savings is the risk entailed due to the current political unrest from drug cartels in that nation.

Reference: Consumer Reports

See also:
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