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Poll: 1 in 4 delaying medical care due to cost

/ Source: The Associated Press

One in four Americans said in a survey that someone in the family put off needed health care in the past year because of cost, including 16 percent who postponed surgery or a doctor's visit for chronic illness.

In all, 53 percent of Americans in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday said they or a family member living with them cut back on health care in one or more ways to save money in the past 12 months.

Most commonly, they relied on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of seeing a doctor, or they skipped a visit to the dentist — about a third of respondents reported doing each. Nearly one in four postponed a recommended medical test or treatment. Nearly as many didn't fill a prescription, while 15 percent cut pills in half or skipped doses of medicine. Seven percent reported problems getting mental health care.

Overall, 27 percent said their household postponed needed medical care. That included 16 percent who put off dealing with at least one serious problem: 10 percent delayed seeing a doctor for a chronic illness like diabetes or asthma; 6 percent postponed minor surgery in the doctor's office; and 5 percent delayed major surgery requiring an overnight hospital stay. And 19 percent each skipped a doctor's visit for temporary illness or preventive care.

As President Barack Obama vows to reform the health care system, the Kaiser Family Foundation found consistently high support for that action despite the country's economic woes: 62 percent said "it's more important than ever to take on health care reform now" while 34 percent said we can't afford it now. Support was similarly high in Kaiser surveys in October and December 2008.

Kaiser also found 59 percent of Americans believe the country would be better off if the president and Congress reform health care. But only 38 percent say their own families would be better off; more, 43 percent, say it wouldn't make much difference. Republicans were more skeptical on both counts than Democrats and independents.

The survey interviewed 1,204 adults by landline and cell phone from Feb. 3-12. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.