In this economy, people aren't just cutting out luxuries, nearly half of Americans are skimping on necessities like medication and doctor visits -- drastic actions that could be dangerous to their health.

According to the latest monthly Consumer Reports Index survey, the lack of money to pay for medical bills and medications is consistently the top financial concern of Americans.

For the last three years, the Consumer Reports National Research Center has asked people about their medication and health care use, and about ways they've been cutting costs. This year, the percentage of people who reported skimping on medication and other forms of health care rose 9 percentage points from 39% to 48%, the largest increase so far, according to Consumer Reports.


Has the economy changed your health care habits?
I have cut in half the amount of medications I take because of money.29 (7.7%)
I only go to the doctor in an emergency.93 (24.5%)
I stopped taking my medication because I can\'t afford it.31 (8.2%)
I have delayed taking medical tests or procedures because I can\'t afford them.124 (32.7%)
I am fine. I haven\'t changed anything.102 (26.9%)
In addition, some 21% said they put off a doctor's visit; 17% delayed a medical procedure and 14% declined a medical test.

Some folks went further: 16% didn't fill a prescription; 13% took expired medication; 12% skipped a dose without asking a doctor or pharmacist; 8% split pills in half without telling their doctor or pharmacist and 4% shared a prescription with somebody.

Consumer Reports
offers this advice:
If cost is an issue, raise it with your doctor when he or she prescribes a medication, especially one you might have to take long-term for a chronic condition. Ask if there is a generic version. If not, ask if there is a generic drug in the same "class" of drugs that might work as well. Sometimes even a drug in a different chemical class but with a similar therapeutic effect might just do the trick. That is often this case with drugs that treat such common conditions as allergies, diabetes, heartburn, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis.

Talk with your pharmacist about costs, too. Ask about special discount generic drug programs. Many chain pharmacies offer a month's supply for about $4 or three months for $10, though restrictions do apply. Your local independent pharmacists might be willing to match those prices.

Finally, avoid free samples when possible. They're usually for the most expensive medications that don't have generic equivalents, and that can cost you when it's time to fill the prescription.

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