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Millions of Americans With Chronic Ills Put Off Health Care
Date:3/18/2009

"Nearly 133 million people in the U.S. have chronic conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of the nation's $2 trillion in medical costs," said James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging at a Wednesday teleconference. "Despite all we're spending, the quality of chronic care is not particularly good. Forty-four percent of patients do not receive recommended care.

"If you think it's bad today, as the nation ages dramatically, so will our chronic needs," Firman added. "Often missing is the voice of those suffering from chronic conditions."

Here are the high points of the new poll, which surveyed 1,109 Americans aged 44 and over, each of whom suffered from at least one chronic health problem, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, asthma or depression:

  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents had at least two chronic conditions, while 20 percent had four or more.
  • Not surprisingly, those with one chronic condition reported being healthier and having more resources, both financial and social, than those with more health problems.
  • One-quarter of respondents said they had delayed getting health care or neglected filling a prescription because of financial concerns. This problem seemed to be more pronounced among Latinos (43 percent) and Baby Boomer women (39 percent).
  • Low-income individuals were more likely to delay care, but also 22 percent of individuals with household incomes of $50,000 or more having made such a decision.
  • Those who have put off care suffer the consequences: 45 percent are "always" or "frequently" in pain (vs. 28 percent of those who sought prompt care), while 49 percent were always or frequently tired (vs. 28 percent of their counterparts) and 40 percent were stressed (vs. 17 percent of those getting care).

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