Majority of Seniors Postpone Doctor Visits Due to Financial Concerns

Nov 30, 2011, 09:04 ET from The Senior Citizens League

New Survey Finds Close to Half of Seniors Also Postpone Filling Prescriptions

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A survey of more than 1,200 seniors revealed that 51 percent of respondents put off visiting a doctor or getting outpatient medical services due to concerns about costs.

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The results were released today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors advocacy groups, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The survey also found that due to financial concerns:

  • Sixty-one percent of respondents postponed visits to dentists, opticians, or hearing specialists
  • Forty-four percent of respondents postponed filling prescriptions or chose to take a lower dosage than prescribed

In addition to taking the survey, nearly 800 seniors wrote comments about their own financial struggles. Here's what five seniors had to say:

Nancy S. of Wisconsin wrote: "I have a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order and bracelet. I do not treat my chest pain and other cardiac symptoms. I just pray for a quick massive heart attack that will kill me instantly before my money runs out."

James S. of North Carolina wrote: "We try to wait until we can't continue our daily activities or the pain gets too intense before we schedule an appointment."

Sarah S. of Washington said: "I have to sometimes cut back on the doses of some of my medications because I don't have enough money at the end of the month for refills... this is difficult because of having several medical problems such as stage 4 kidney failure."

Jack C. of Nebraska wrote: "Unfortunately I've been using my credit card to pay for doctor visits and medications. I just keep getting into deeper and deeper debt. I am fearful that I will lose my home."

Carol Ann R. of Iowa said: "I try not to go to the doctor unless it is necessary and I dropped my dental insurance because I could not afford it. Therefore I don't go."

The survey also found that 44 percent of seniors are spending at least $300 per month in out-of-pocket medical expenses and that ten percent are spending at least $750 per month.

"This survey makes clear just how hard seniors have been hit during this economic downturn," said Larry Hyland, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. "Due to financial concerns, too many seniors are forced to make life or death decisions regarding their health on a daily basis. It shouldn't be that way, and we're going to continue to pressure Congress to leave their benefits intact."

To help increase buying power, TSCL is lobbying for a change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) used to determine the Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) seniors receive in their Social Security checks each year. The government currently calculates the COLA based on the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), a slow-rising index that tracks the spending habits of younger workers who don't spend as much of their income on health expenditures.

However, the government does track the spending patterns of older Americans, and has done so since 1983 with the CPI for Elderly Consumers, or CPI-E. By tying the annual increase in the COLA to the CPI-E, seniors would see much needed relief in their monthly checks. For example, a senior who retired with a benefit of $460 in 1984 would have received $13,723 more over the past 27 years with the CPI-E.

Methodology: 1,204 seniors completed an online survey in September and October 2011. In total, 766 respondents left additional comments about their specific costs and financial decisions.

With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.

SOURCE The Senior Citizens League