Older Americans are being forced to skip doctor appointments and change or reduce their prescriptions in order to save money according to the January 2012 newsletter of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
The newsletter reports that more than 1 in 5 (21.5 percent) of those aged 50 or above made prescription drug changes such as switching to cheaper generic drugs, getting free samples, stopping pills or reducing dosages, and nearly as many (19.4 percent) skipped or postponed doctor appointments to save money.
LESS HEALTHY DO MORE ADJUSTMENTS: Among those in (self-reported) poor health, 29.9 percent made prescription drug changes and 36.5 percent skipped or postponed doctor appointments to save money. For those in excellent health, the comparable numbers were 15.3 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.
SINGLE WOMEN AND BLACKS ADJUST MOST: Among different demographic groups, single women and blacks had the highest involuntary spending adjustments: 22.8 percent and 24.8 percent of single women made prescription drug changes and skipped or postponed doctor appointments to save money. Similar numbers for blacks were 25.9 percent and 27.3 percent, respectively.
The data is from a 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study.
While it makes sense for our society to encourage seniors to be frugal in their health expenditures, skipping doctor appointments and reducing or stopping their prescribed medications is probably not frugal in the long run. Perhaps Health Reform can modify the current dysfunctional model and allow seniors to make more strategic decisions about their health care needs that leads to both better health and reduced expenditures.