One in Five Older Americans Cut Back Healthcare to Save Money

January 11, 2012 ( – Research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) shows health spending by those near or in retirement declines to match income.  

According to the EBRI report, more than 20% of Americans age 50 or over are saving on health costs by switching to cheaper generic drugs, getting free samples, stopping pills or reducing dosages, and nearly as many skip or postpone doctor appointments for the same reason.

Specifically, the analysis found that more than one in five (21.5%) households reported they have made some changes in their prescription drugs to save money, and nearly as many (19.4%) said they have either skipped or postponed doctor appointments to do so. More than one-quarter of households (27.5%) reported difficulty in paying their monthly bills.

The report found that these reductions were almost equally prevalent among households, whether they reported increasing or decreasing their annual spending. Even for those who reported that their spending was unchanged, 16.5% reported making prescription drug changes, while 11.7% reported skipping or postponing doctor visits to save money.

The study also found that about one in 10 of those in excellent health reported skipping or postponing doctor appointments to save money, while more than three times as many (36.5%) of those in poor health reported doing so. Similarly, nearly one in three (29.9%) of those in poor health reported making prescription drug changes to save money, which is nearly twice the number of those in excellent health.

Further, the study found that single women and blacks had the highest involuntary spending adjustments: 22.8% and 24.8% of single women made prescription drug changes and skipped or postponed doctor appointments to save money. Comparable numbers for blacks were 25.9% and 27.3%, respectively.

The study is based on data from the 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The full report is published in the January 2012 EBRI Notes, “Spending Adjustments Made By Older Americans to Save Money,” online at