Boomers Cite Health Care Behavior Changes Due to Economy

January 2, 2009 ( - Delaying doctor visits and dipping into savings, including retirement savings, to pay for health care are among the list of health care behaviors changes adults age 45 and older have made due to current economic conditions.

An October 2008 survey by AARP Knowledge Management and International Communications Research about the effect of the economic downturn on the ability to afford health care found about one-half (51%) of respondents have taken a generic or over-the-counter medication instead of a prescription drug. About one-fifth said they have delayed seeing a doctor or other medical professional (22%).

According to the research report, 21% indicated they cut back on other expenses to afford health care, and 21% reported they sought assistance in getting prescriptions at a lower cost. Sixteen percent said they have dipped into their retirement or other savings to pay for health care.

Other health care changes due to the economy that were cited include:

  • Cutting back on preventive care – 16%,
  • Skipping doses of medications or taking less than prescribed – 15%,
  • Cutting back on medical care – 14%,
  • Deciding not to fill a prescription – 14%, and
  • Contacting a drug manufacturer or drug store about prescription assistance programs – 11%.

Among demographic groups, those with incomes less than $25,000 per year were more likely to say they have made each of the behavior changes than those with incomes over $50,000 per year. Respondents age 65 and older are more likely than other respondents to say they have sought help with prescription costs.

Those ages 45-54 are more likely than those age 65 and older to say they have cut back on medical care, delayed seeing a doctor, or but back on preventive care due to the economic downturn.

One-fifth of respondents said financial stress has caused them health problems, while 17% indicated cutting back on medical care has caused them health problems.

According to the AARP research, 30% of those age 45 and older surveyed said they are extremely confident they will be able to afford medical care next year, and 27% said they are very confident. Nine percent said they are not very confident they will be able to afford health care next year, while 7% said they are not at all confident.

About half of respondents reported having health insurance coverage through their (35%) or their spouse's (13%) current employer. Six percent reported having retiree coverage through their or their spouse's former employer.

According to the research report, one-fifth have health care coverage with Medicare, 10% have individually-purchased coverage, and 6% of respondents reported having no coverage.

More men than women (41% vs. 30%) reported having health insurance coverage through their current employer. Individuals age 45-54 and 55-64 were more likely than those age 65 and older to report having employer-sponsored coverage (49%, 48%, and 6%, respectively). In addition, those with incomes of $25,000 per year or more were more likely to say they have coverage through their employer than those making less than $25,000.

The research report is here .