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High Medical Bills Driving Some Americans to Extreme Measures
Date:1/19/2013

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Insured Americans with serious medical conditions say the financial stress of rising out-of-pocket health care costs is forcing them to juggle household budgets, delay or skimp on care and even run up credit cards or dodge debt collectors, a new study reveals.

The report, published in the January/February issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine, provides a snapshot of "life disruptions" people experience as a result of their medical expenses and the sometimes extreme measures they take to keep their heads above water.

One study participant was prescribed a drug to alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by his cancer chemotherapy. Insurance picked up $900 of the $1,200 cost, but he could not even afford the co-payment and went without the medicine. "I said, you know what, I'd rather be sick," he told researchers.

Another paid all her bills but relegated her grocery budget to "whatever's left."

"Sadly, our experience with thousands of patients over the last decade has shown us that many of them have to make heartbreaking decisions about following doctors' orders or putting food on the table for themselves or their families," said Sarah Di Troia, chief operating officer of Health Leads, a Boston-based organization that works with hospitals and clinics to connect patients to basic resources.

David Lipschutz, policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C., said the study is important, timely and "reinforces a lot of the other literature out there" examining the effects of out-of-pocket spending.

Medicare has considerable cost-sharing requirements, and many people who have Medicare "simply don't earn the income in order to afford it," Lipschutz added.

Consider this: Half of the nation's Medicare beneficiaries live on less than $22,000 a year, and 45 percent have three or mo
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